An unflinching picaresque of finding love and sanity in a place that was anything but The Land of the Morning Calm.


Through the eyes of conflicted Americans and war-ravaged locals, Slake’s compelling debut novel focuses on the “sordid side of garrison life” in post–WWII Japan and the absurdities in Korea that followed.

Twenty-one year-old Pvt. David Ricksen, from Lincoln, Neb., has been stationed in Japan for six months, but he’s already acquired an attractive lover named Keiko. He also has an inconvenient relationship with a fellow GI—and proud grifter—Michael Hurley. When Ricksen is transferred to Korea, a raid of Russian tanks and North Korean soldiers decimates his unit and leaves him wandering a foreboding landscape and hoping deep down the Army will look out for him. Meanwhile, Hurley, who paid to stay behind in Yokohama to run his moneylending operation, kills a fellow soldier over $30, and as he sinks to the depths of hell to atone for his sins, he receives an unexpected offer from the malevolent Cpl. Faust—and his frightening flunky, Tomoda. Captivating USO worker Patricia Sorensen, troubled, beautiful prostitute Rie Hara and blackmailed Maj. Paul Nathan fill out the remaining slots of Slake’s sexual and tragic roundelay. Evocative descriptions recreate bustling Yokohama, with its ox carts, pachinko parlors, “bars and sex pits,” the brutal, impromptu battlefields of the Korean countryside, and in a touching coda, the Louvre. With strong and steady language, not devoid of poetry, Slake’s observations and intertwined plots reveal a raw vision of the beginning of the Korean conflict that defies its main “beneficiaries”: flawed Gen. MacArthur, the overblown efforts and narrow scope of the Marines and the triviality of M*A*S*H*. Although he tallies the tedium and travesties, such as Ricksen’s travails aboard the Shinano Maru en route to Korea, Slake never loses his sense of humor or humanity. His multidimensional characters, flawed in all-too-human ways, remain true to the insensitive racial and sexual stereotypes of the day—and not even the most secondary of characters, such as the exciting, mysterious Madame LeClerc, suffers from a lack of uninteresting back story.

An unflinching picaresque of finding love and sanity in a place that was anything but The Land of the Morning Calm.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2012


Page Count: 290

Publisher: Publish Green

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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