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THE LIVING ROOM OF THE DEAD

An amateurish debut effort. Imagine Graham Greene would have done with the same material.

Who lives by the hooker meets the reaper.

So instructs this modest, and marginal, first novel retailing the adventures of one Ray Sharp, expat editor of a Hong Kong–based financial news monthly, man about town and future candidate for liver transplantation. Ray is fond of minding his own business in nearby Macao, to which he retreats for adult recreation, this being 1995, before either Hong Kong or the nearby foreign colonies have reverted to Chinese rule. Interrupting this leisure is a junior colleague, a plummy scion of London bankers who has been seeking his own recreation in the arms of a Russian prostitute having trouble with her boss: a Mafiya type who is decidedly no fun. He begs for help. Ray knows a thing or two about Russian hookers, having one himself as a long-distance girlfriend, and, besides, it promises to make a story or two. Thus Ray goes up against a very well-oiled crime machine whose depths he can only begin to guess at. It’s a little exciting for him, we imagine, because he gets to tussle with giant Soviet-era women who’ve honed their various skills in the Gulag, and then luxuriate with more compact models who would be supermodels were they not working the ports. Yet, warns both a CIA type and Ray’s well-intentioned Portuguese biker pals, he’s messing with more than he can handle. It’s less exciting for us, who must read page after page of portentous prose: “The Roman is the most dangerous of all. He is from Vladivostok. People say that he is crazy.” And, “The one with the sword and the hearts means that she’s killed three men, one for each heart. She’ll get more put on when she kills more.” Still, there are moral lessons to be found in these pages: don’t get drunk around the clock, keep a low profile, find a nice partner, stay out of the way of the bad guys.

An amateurish debut effort. Imagine Graham Greene would have done with the same material.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-765-31297-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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