THE CURSE

Returning from the dead for yet another encore, two headline-making names, boy king Tutankhamen and megaselling Robbins, partnered once again by living collaborator Podrug, power another case for antiquities investigator Madison Dupre.

All right, “power” may not be the most exact word for this shrill, inept thriller. To be sure, Madison, tossed out of her cushy curatorial post at New York’s Piedmont Museum after a spot of high-profile trouble (The Looters, 2007, etc.) and forced to live from one freelance check to the next, takes it very seriously indeed when someone shows up at her apartment door and tries to kill her. But well-informed readers already know that Fatima Sari’s heart isn’t in the job she’s taken on for the evil mastermind codenamed Sphinx; after all, the weapon is a letter opener, she wields it with little conviction and soon after her failed attempt at murder she’s thrown herself under the wheels of a subway, leaving the heroine, who witnesses her death, to wonder why Dr. Mounir Kassem has hand-picked Madison to authenticate the Heart of Egypt, a scarab Sir Jacob Radcliff looted from King Tut’s tomb back in 1922. Now that the scarab’s been stolen from the Radcliff collection and held for ransom, its owners, if that’s what you want to call them, need to make sure they’re paying for the real thing and not a counterfeit executed by Jeremy Botwell or Quintin Rees. Desperate for cash, Madison signs on and flies to Cairo, where Egyptian police officer Rafi al Din, whose daughter Dalila is dying of leukemia, promptly confiscates her passport and takes her to bed. There’ll be more featherweight adventures, confrontations, double-crosses, revelations, couplings and triplings, but zero atmosphere or sense of place as the characters hurtle from one picture-postcard location to the next. Madison’s summary nails it: “Murder, madness, and greed swirled around me like a Mojave dust devil.” You go, girl. 

 

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2714-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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

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