An intriguing story that begs to be finished but reads as if it should be a bingeworthy TV series instead.

THE HOLDOUT

A woman finds herself playing multiple roles—juror, attorney, investigator, and suspect—in this legal drama–meets–murder investigation set in Los Angeles.

Maya Seale, a white, bilingual transplant from New Mexico, is both a 36-year-old criminal defense attorney and a 26-year-old juror in a novel that jumps between two storylines, one set in 2019 and one in 2009. In the latter, Maya was the lone not-guilty holdout in a Los Angeles jury that eventually flipped and acquitted Bobby Nock, a 25-year-old black part-time English teacher, in a high-profile murder trial. Bobby was accused of killing one of his students, Jessica Silver, the 15-year-old white daughter of a property titan worth billions. But there was no body. Rick Leonard, a black juror, is plagued with guilt over the acquittal and dedicates a decade to discovering the jurors’ closely held secrets and proving Bobby’s guilt. These efforts result in a deal for an eight-hour true-crime docuseries on Bobby, the trial, and the jurors who acquitted him. After 10 of the 11 living jurors gather at a hotel in 2019 to begin taping, Rick is found dead in Maya’s hotel room. The book’s second storyline follows Maya, now a murder suspect herself, as she tries to clear her name. Author Moore’s (The Last Days of Night, 2016, etc.) background as a screenwriter is apparent in this dialogue-heavy book that features a cast of more than two dozen and two storylines that unfold concurrently. The characters in each might be the same, but they are simultaneously heroes and villains, flawed people with god complexes, and individuals just trying to do their best for themselves and, perhaps, others. The characters’ emotions as they argue and discuss issues such as race and justice feel flat, however, as if actors are required to bring their voices to life.

An intriguing story that begs to be finished but reads as if it should be a bingeworthy TV series instead.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59177-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

HOUR GAME

A serial killer with a sense of history is the baddie in this latest from Baldacci, one of the reigning kings of potboilers (Split Second, 2003, etc.).

He kills, he leaves clues, he flatters through imitation: Son of Sam, the San Francisco Zodiac killer, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gracy, and so on down a sanguinary list of accredited members of the Monsters’ Hall of Fame. Suddenly, the landscape of poor little Wrightsburg, Virginia, is littered with corpses, and ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have their hands full. That’s because bewildered, beleaguered Chief of Police Todd Williams has turned to the newly minted private investigating firm of King and Maxwell for desperately needed (unofficial) help. Even these ratiocinative wizards, however, admit to puzzlement. “But I'm not getting this,” says Michelle. “Why commit murders in similar styles to past killers as a copycat would and then write letters making it clear you’re not them?” Excellent question, and it goes pretty much unanswered. Never mind—enter the battling Battles, a family with the requisite number of sins and secrets to qualify fully as hot southern Gothic and to prop up a plot in need. Bobby Battles, the patriarch, is bedridden, but Remmy, his wife, is one lively mischief-making steel magnolia. She’s brought breaking-and-entering charges against decent local handyman Junior Deaver, who as a result languishes in the county jail. Convinced of his innocence, Junior’s lawyer hires King & Maxwell to sniff around for exculpatory evidence. Well, will the two plot streams flow together? You betcha. Will the copycat-serial-killer at one point decide that King and Maxwell are just too clever to live? Inevitably. And when at last that CCSK’s identity is revealed and his crimes explained (talkily and tediously), will readers be satisfied? Only the charitable among them.

Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2004

ISBN: 0-446-53108-1

Page Count: 440

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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