An auspicious beginning to an intelligent thriller series with a likable, oddball lead.

Deadly Secrets


In Bickerstaff’s complex country-jumping biotech thriller, a potential revolutionary new process in the food industry could result in big bucks for some and murder for others.

Something doesn’t smell right at SeaPro Ltd, and it’s not just the black fiddle fish the Scottish company uses in its enzyme research. Biochemist and judo enthusiast Gavin Shawlens, who has “a passion for enzymes,” recently agreed to work with SeaPro, not because the company developed a new process using fish enzymes that might transform the food industry, but because the singular love of his life, Emma Patersun, owns the company. One drawback is she owns it with her husband, Jim. Another hitch is that powerful people, including billionaire James Barscadden, want control of SeaPro’s potentially lucrative discovery. Barscadden is a darling of the British government; his massive food-manufacturing company, BARSCO, employs more than 8,000 Brits. It also has at its core a secret organization known as Gyge’s Ring run by Barscadden, who “recruited a group of handpicked Ring leaders to do his bidding slavishly.” His mission is to take control at any cost of SeaPro’s new process. But he has competition. Other nations also want to snag the process, even if it’s fatally flawed. Like Barscadden, Shawlens is a member of a secret organization. He belongs to the Lambeth Group, a covert concern that works with MI5 to suss out possible technology disasters, and SeaPro’s new process just might be a doozy. Bickerstaff (Toxic Minds, 2016, etc.) writes with authority on biochemistry, and he has a flair for physical descriptions. One character “spread herself out over their bed like a sad old walrus” and another’s “white open-necked shirt would have benefitted from a quick once over with an iron.” The romance resumed by Emma and Gavin is sensual, with pet names for privates, and dialogue is believable. The story would have benefitted by being simpler, however. An abundance of characters, locales, and maneuvers make the book, written in British English, more work and less punchy.

An auspicious beginning to an intelligent thriller series with a likable, oddball lead.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4959-0365-6

Page Count: 316

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 75

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • 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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?