A thoughtful tale of mistaken identity, fraud, sex, murder, and transcendent friendship.

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Identity Crisis

A MYSTERY WITH MORE TWISTS AND TURNS THAN AN OLD COUNTRY ROAD

The Prince and the Pauper gets turned on its head in this rags-to-riches thriller.

Rodda’s debut novel opens in the midst of a furious battle during the Cambodian incursion of 1973. Mason Dillon awakes in “a mass of death,” his right leg shattered, his entire unit killed except for two men: himself and his best friend, Adrian Wylde, who saves his life. War over, the two men move deeper into Cambodia, and Mason decides he wants to stay there for good. He’s found a young wife and feels anxious to avoid his old life’s entanglements. But Adrian longs for home, and so Mason proposes a deal. Since he and Adrian “looked alike, they even acted alike, and nearly everyone, even their closest friends, could rarely tell them apart,” Mason suggests they swap identities. This means that Adrian, leaving his shabby Chicago past behind, will take possession of Mason’s substantial inheritance. At first, it’s a dream come true. Adrian meets Mason’s long-lost father, owner of a multimillion-dollar transport company, and is swept into a moneyed life in the Hamptons of the sort he’d never dreamed possible. He becomes “a man-about-town who knew his way around, a blooming sophisticate, carefully groomed for that role.” But there are worms in the apple. His stepmother seduces him aggressively, then threatens him. His new father seems to be in business with some shady characters, including smugglers; medical travails destroy Adrian’s mental health; and just when it seems things can’t get any worse, he finds himself framed for a body of crimes he didn’t commit. “I’m telling you,” rants an FBI agent about Adrian, aka Mason Dillon, “he’s a drug smuggler, an embezzler, and he’s a goddamned murderer!” Rodda’s thriller is just that—thrilling, a fast and fun read that almost casually grapples with some of the most profound metaphysical questions: are we the people we pretend to be? What sits at the center of the self? What obligation do we owe to our own prior lives? And what duty do we owe to our friends? The author injects opulence (Adrian “had his own apartment, a chauffeured limo whenever he wanted it, an unlimited expense account, and lots of personal money to spend on his every whim”), a desire for revenge, a sympathetic woman, the CIA, and a mysterious psychologist into the narrative. With echoes of both Patricia Highsmith and Randy Wayne White, Rodda has distinguished himself with a sterling debut. With luck, readers can expect more books to come.

A thoughtful tale of mistaken identity, fraud, sex, murder, and transcendent friendship. 

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5328-9266-0

Page Count: 334

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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