A thoughtful, page turning post-apocalyptic tale marred by a disjointed conclusion.

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THE LAST

A historian documents his strange days hiding out in a Swiss hotel in the aftermath of nuclear war.

American historian Jon Keller is at a conference at L’Hotel Sixième outside of Zurich when a nuclear weapon destroys Washington, and more major cities aren’t far behind. The president is dead, and millions of others are, too. The horror is almost too much to contemplate. Many people in the hotel flee, but Jon stays and begins to chronicle his days with the small remaining group of guests and staff. He worries about his wife and two daughters back in San Francisco and laments that he didn't leave on the best of terms with his wife. He befriends a few of the guests, most notably the outspoken Tomi, who is the only other American; they have a doctor and plenty of food stores for the time being. Jon makes a record of his experiences in the hotel and collects the stories of his fellow survivors, hoping he can preserve something of what they were before the world went sideways. When Jon and a few others find the body of a little girl in a rooftop water tank, Jon resolves to find her killer. Trusted with a set of master keys, Jon sets about snooping around the enormous hotel. He often feels as if he’s being watched, adding a distinct element of creeping dread reminiscent of The Shining. Jameson delivers an eerie and unsettling tale, made even more so by its frequent mundanity. Even with a world in chaos, people still do what they do—form alliances, keep secrets, make love. They also go to lengths they never imagined they would. Jameson’s premise certainly resonates in our current political climate, and blame for the situation is leveled directly at Tomi because of whom she voted for in the last presidential election even as Jon ruminates that those who voted otherwise (like him) didn’t do enough to stop what happened. It makes for propulsive reading, but readers invested in what happened to the little girl in the water tank will find themselves scratching their heads when all is finally revealed in a rather rushed finale.

A thoughtful, page turning post-apocalyptic tale marred by a disjointed conclusion.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9882-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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