Read this not for the whodunit but for a gripping character study of an accused girl making sense of her reality.

LITTLE THREATS

A 15-year-old murder case gets new life after the convicted killer, Kennedy Wynn, is released from prison.

Just a teenager when convicted, the now 30-something Kennedy is learning how to be a free woman. While she was in jail, her mother died of cancer, her twin sister, Carter, battled addiction and got sober, and her father—who, as a lawyer, was convinced the charges against Kennedy would be dropped—lived alone with his guilt. And though Kennedy is free to start over, she quickly realizes that the baggage she carries from Haley Kimberson’s death is not easily discarded. Even Carter, the person Kennedy needs most, isn’t convinced her twin is innocent. But Kennedy can’t defend herself because she has no memory of the murder night, only of finding Haley’s body: “Haley was my friend and now she was falling apart.” Kennedy’s release garners the attention of Dee Nash, a former detective–turned-host of the TV show Crime After Crime, who's interested in poking holes in this long-standing narrative to potentially prove Kennedy’s innocence. For one, could a young girl have the strength to inflict those wounds? Kennedy, who tells much of her story via creative writing exercises done in prison, says it best: “There is always a living boy to go with a dead girl.” But which boy? Berk Butler, who was with Kennedy and Haley that fateful night, but who had “more money, more lawyers” than the Wynns during the trial? Or someone else? As multiple characters search for the truth, the most compelling point of view is Kennedy’s retrospective account from prison. Kennedy’s voice comes across as detached, the omniscient perspective of someone who’s had a lot of time to think over the details. In order to understand what led to Haley’s death, Kennedy considers all the little threats that lived under the surface of her family's and friends’ daily lives that could have grown into something more sinister. This detached voice bleeds into the rest of the narrative, making the slow build toward truth feel impersonal. Haley’s memory haunts those who miss her most, but this metaphor takes on a more literal, paranormal form toward the end. The most effective revelation is more subtle—that everyone is more than who they are on the surface, and nothing is ever exactly as it seems.

Read this not for the whodunit but for a gripping character study of an accused girl making sense of her reality.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08699-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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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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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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