A competent actioner: The Bourne Supremacy with a smattering of Froissart, and enough car chases and explosions to keep...

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THE TESTAMENT

Let’s see: There’s a secret Catholic cult that harbors a secret so faith-shaking that Christianity might collapse were it known. They’re willing to kill for it. Hmmm . . .

The good news is that Lustbader (The Veil of a Thousand Tears, 2002, etc.), a prolific author of genre pieces, can actually write. That alone distinguishes him from Dan Brown. The bad news is that this book is too long and a touch too shaggy—and that, no matter what, it’s likely to draw comparison to The Da Vinci Code. There are some gross similarities, but never mind. The hero is a medieval-studies ninja who knows how to love and fight, to say nothing of pray, thanks to a father who just happens to be a higher-up in the Order of Gnostic Observatines—a bunch of Franciscans who haven’t quite absorbed the founder’s message of peace. Dad, though, gets blown up by baddies in the service of the pope, a way-top-secret gang of priestly pummelers called the Knights of St. Clement. There’s been bad blood between the two organizations for generations, as Braverman Shaw, aka Bravo, discovers when it’s his turn to bop around New York and Venice and Paris and Trabzon (“As a student of medieval religions you’re no doubt disappointed to see what’s become of fabled Trebizond, eh?”) and points between to fight for the true faith. Braverman bears his own cross—it’s enough to say that thin ice and a sibling figure in the tale—but is still present enough to acquit himself well with the ripe Jenny Logan, another member of the Order who may or may not be telling all she knows. He does okay when put up against those evil Knights, too, one of them a pretty girl with a rather skimpy suit of armor and a talent for making men talk.

A competent actioner: The Bourne Supremacy with a smattering of Froissart, and enough car chases and explosions to keep things interesting.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 0-765-31463-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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

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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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