Emerson (Pyro, 2004, etc.), always reliable, surpasses everything he’s done before with this sometimes painfully funny,...

THE SMOKE ROOM

A good man, a skilled and dedicated firefighter, cracks his moral compass, in the best yet from the Seattle firefighter and Shamus Award–winning author.

Twenty-four-year old Jason Gum thinks he has his future planned. He likes his job, knows he’s got the right stuff for it and is studying for the lieutenant’s exam, confident he’ll pass. Then a pig, a double-ribbon winner at a county fair, off-loads himself out of an airplane at 11,000 feet and lands on Iola Pederson’s roof, starting a conflagration. After that, nothing in Jason’s life goes according to plan. He rescues Mrs. Pederson and becomes her lover—perhaps a pardonable mistake. He’s young, after all, and she’s sexy and determined. Dallying with her, he misses a call and Engine 29 leaves without him. Two of his colleagues, though aware of his dereliction, choose not to rat him out, and he soon discovers he’s in their power. Robert Johnson and Ted Tronstad, who share Jason’s shift, are both seriously unstable, Tronstad downright pathological. Then Engine 29 responds to a 911 at the home of a retired bank-robber, where Tronstad finds a bundle of stashed swag and elects for grand larceny. This leads to an alliance between Johnson and Tronstad, with Jason as odd man out. It also leads to a series of cold-blooded cover-up homicides. Inexperienced and scared, Jason doesn't do what his better angels tell him to: call the cops. “I am the king of inaction,” he says of himself bitterly. At length, he faces the loss of everything he cares most about: his career, the woman he loves, his view of himself as worthwhile. Is there a way out? Well, there shouldn't be, and he knows it. Life, however, is a game-player.

Emerson (Pyro, 2004, etc.), always reliable, surpasses everything he’s done before with this sometimes painfully funny, occasionally poignant suspenser that adheres to its genre roots while achieving considerably more.

Pub Date: May 31, 2005

ISBN: 0-345-46290-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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