A well-crafted disaster novel that packs an emotional wallop.

BREATHE

In Kravchenko’s debut novel, a man seeks to locate his friends in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.

Carl Lundmark is a young Swedish man living in London who’s perpetually single and unhappily works hard at his hedge fund job to distract him from the emptiness of his life. Then he hears about an earthquake in the Indian Ocean on the news—a freak event that kicked up a tsunami that’s thought to have killed thousands in Southeast Asia. Carl’s recently married best friends,Kristoffer and Eva Berg, are in Thailand, which was one of the worst-hit areas: “Carl had exchanged texts with Kristoffer three days ago, or maybe four. They had landed in Bangkok, Kristoffer said….It was their honeymoon, for God’s sake. How could anything happen to them?” He manages to find the name of the resort where his friends were staying, only to learn that it was “all but obliterated” by the tsunami, and that Kristoffer and Eva are among the missing. He makes a spontaneous decision to fly to Thailand to try to find them, although he has no idea how he’ll do so. As Carl encounters the post-tsunami chaos on the ground, Kravchenko offers pre-tsunami stories of Kristoffer, Eva, and other tourists as their fates pull them toward the unforeseeable calamity. The prose is taut and vibrant, pulsing with Carl’s tense nervous energy: “Hospital staff…lifted a motionless woman from a stretcher that had been laid on the asphalt, and placed her on a trolley. Her hair and face were covered in dry blood and mud, her eyes closed, grimy arms spread, dangling.” The story manages to successfully balance the specific horrors of the 2004 tsunami with the personal lives of Carl, Kristoffer, and the others, resulting in a consistently surprising tale of friendship that delves into Swedish identity and questions of how best to live. There are a few moments of cultural analysis that feel clunky and didactic, but for the most part, the story is a page-turner with high psychological stakes.

A well-crafted disaster novel that packs an emotional wallop.

Pub Date: April 28, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Threesixty Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2021

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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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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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