A disquieting and distinctly creepy debut.

IF I DISAPPEAR

When a true-crime podcaster disappears, her biggest fan sets out to find her.

After a miscarriage and a divorce, Sera Fleece feels like she’s “wrong in the world” and that if she were to disappear, no one would miss her. She’s slowly unraveling. Rachel Bard’s podcast, Murder, She Spoke, which Sera is obsessed with, keeps her from coming apart completely. When the podcast abruptly stops, with no updates on social media, Sera becomes convinced something bad has happened to Rachel and decides to put the investigation skills she learned from the podcast to work. Using bits and pieces of personal information revealed on the podcast, Sera makes her way to Fountain Creek Guest Ranch in Northern California, owned by Rachel's family. Arriving at the remote ranch, she realizes she needs a good story, so she pretends she’s looking for work. Luckily, she knows how to handle horses, and Rachel’s larger-than-life mother, Addy, hires her as head wrangler. This is an opportunity for Sera to investigate, and she soon notices a palpable strangeness at the ranch. There are no guests or internet access, the horses aren’t healthy, and Addy thinks Rachel might have been killed by a dangerous gang that roams the borders of their land. It only gets weirder. Sera discovers that more women have disappeared from Fountain Creek, and she’s not sure whom she can trust. Even Jed, the handsome cowboy she falls for, seems to be hiding something. Sera’s urgent narration often takes on an uneasy, dreamlike quality and is directed solely to Rachel, who's addressed as “you.” Sera eventually finds within herself a courage and resolve she didn’t know she possessed: She can’t leave until she finds Rachel, even when her instincts tell her to run. Snippets from Rachel’s podcast precede each chapter, heightening and building the uneasy narrative all the way to a none-too-tidy finale.

A disquieting and distinctly creepy debut.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-19822-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

TOM CLANCY TARGET ACQUIRED

Bentley keeps Jack Ryan Jr.’s life exciting in this latest grand-scale Tom Clancy adventure.

Ryan is in Tel Aviv on an “asset-validation exercise” for a private company referred to as The Campus, and he takes time to hang out at the beach. There, he sees a woman with a child who he can tell is autistic, and he saves her from a knife-wielding attacker. She’s flummoxed; who’d want to hurt her? When mother and son leave, Ryan wants to return the boy’s dropped Captain America toy. “What could go wrong with that?” he muses naïvely. Only three hell-raising threats in one day. Almost immediately he meets agents from Israeli security, Shin Bet. Who is he? What’s he doing there? But though he doesn’t lie about his name, no one ever exclaims, “Wow, you have the same name as the U.S. president. Any connection?” Anyway, Chinese State Security is also interested in the woman, and Jack doesn’t know why. And then mother and son are kidnapped. True to the Clancy style, what begins as the attempted return of a toy mushrooms into a threat of global conflict—“no good deed goes unpunished” is an apt cliché. Other enemies include Iran's Quds Force, an apocalyptic cult—and some smart jihadis, because “the dumb jihadis died a long time ago.” Ryan is a fierce warrior when the need arises, and he refuses a direct order to return to the U.S.: “Sorry, sir…no can do. I’ve got two innocents still at risk—a mother and child.” So even when the bad guys try to crucify him, “nobody did cornered junkyard dog better than Jack.” Meanwhile, an airborne threat may destroy Tel Aviv. The story has some nice wordplay, with helicopters “clawing for altitude like homesick angels,” and the F-35 being “part ballerina, part racehorse, and all killer.” While on the ground “blood flowed and bones broke,” and a female fighter jock has the final say.

Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18813-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

PROJECT HAIL MARY

Weir’s latest is a page-turning interstellar thrill ride that follows a junior high school teacher–turned–reluctant astronaut at the center of a desperate mission to save humankind from a looming extinction event.

Ryland Grace was a once-promising molecular biologist who wrote a controversial academic paper contesting the assumption that life requires liquid water. Now disgraced, he works as a junior high science teacher in San Francisco. His previous theories, however, make him the perfect researcher for a multinational task force that's trying to understand how and why the sun is suddenly dimming at an alarming rate. A barely detectable line of light that rises from the sun’s north pole and curves toward Venus is inexplicably draining the star of power. According to scientists, an “instant ice age” is all but inevitable within a few decades. All the other stars in proximity to the sun seem to be suffering with the same affliction—except Tau Ceti. An unwilling last-minute replacement as part of a three-person mission heading to Tau Ceti in hopes of finding an answer, Ryland finds himself awakening from an induced coma on the spaceship with two dead crewmates and a spotty memory. With time running out for humankind, he discovers an alien spacecraft in the vicinity of his ship with a strange traveler on a similar quest. Although hard scientific speculation fuels the storyline, the real power lies in the many jaw-dropping plot twists, the relentless tension, and the extraordinary dynamic between Ryland and the alien (whom he nicknames Rocky because of its carapace of oxidized minerals and metallic alloy bones). Readers may find themselves consuming this emotionally intense and thematically profound novel in one stay-up-all-night-until-your-eyes-bleed sitting.

An unforgettable story of survival and the power of friendship—nothing short of a science-fiction masterwork.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13520-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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