Structural quirks notwithstanding, the interesting premise makes for an entertaining read with more than one unexpected turn.

A SORORITY OF ANGELS

In Leodas’ (Unsafe Harbor, 2005, etc.) latest novel, a group of women working at the United Nations unite to form a “sorority” with the goal of combating world hunger and poverty.

The novel brings together the unique stories of five women working as aides to influential diplomats. In a successful literary device, each woman is embroiled in a dangerous, violent scheme of personal revenge. For the most part, these women are more than entitled to their retribution, and their actions add a layer of legitimacy and intrigue to their mission, although there are exceptions. The story is narrated in the first person by Adam Churchill, whose girlfriend, Laura, is the founder of the “Achilles Heart” sorority. Yet Laura remains an enigma throughout the novel. Unlike her cohorts, Pilar, Shaba and Alise, Laura hasn’t been subjected to humiliation and degradation. She’s the inspiration for the other women, but it’s their struggles that stir in Laura a fascination with violence. A fifth woman, Judy, serves primarily to add a less-than-angelic twist to Laura’s scheming. Leodas experiments with unusual syntax to keep the story moving quickly, and sentences appear to be in such a rush to get on the page that they frequently leave behind a preposition or article. Verbs are sometimes oddly employed: “She terrified at the thought.” Often the disregard for grammatical conventions works; when it does, the effect is immediate and dramatic. But the technique is applied unevenly without discipline. Too frequently readers are left to fill in the missing parts, serving to distract and disengage them from the novel.

Structural quirks notwithstanding, the interesting premise makes for an entertaining read with more than one unexpected turn.

Pub Date: March 29, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468143270

Page Count: 409

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2012

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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