A memorable narrative that can be a bit bumpy in parts.

GET OFF MY LEG

Debut author Lietz presents a novel, based on true stories, about various, disconnected events in an adventurous man’s life.

The story begins in the summer of 1966 as a man named Jan goes to the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island with his co-workers. The group rambles around the area, drinking a strongly alcoholic concoction called “bash.” It becomes a regular event, and in the ’70s, the destination changes from the Hamptons to New Hampshire where Jan, along with his wife, Marisol, his daughter, Domino, and an assortment of friends build a summertime campground. In 1975, Jan earns a degree in electrical engineering and finds work with an architectural team on a large hospital project in Los Angeles. After he and his family move to the West Coast, the narrative takes a distinct turn: Jan, on a Dallas business trip, has an affair with a woman named Mandy. At first, it seems like a one-night stand, but then the pair go on to sexually experiment; soon, they even make plans to write a sex guide together. That book never materializes, but Jan’s marriage, and his affair, end up dissolving. However, the ever-adaptable engineer goes on to meet other women, obtain a Shar-Pei named Ling Ling, and embark on travels that include driving four-wheel-drive vehicles in the desert with pals nicknamed “Lava Man” and “Red Dog.” Throughout, Jan maintains a love of opera—he even goes so far as to explain, in detail, the plot of Giacomo Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West—and regularly insists that people “Get Off My Leg,” which seems roughly equivalent to the phrase “give me a break.” Lietz’s novel is peculiar in a lot of ways, not the least of which is the author’s choice to use a handful of different narrators to tell the tales (although Jan ends up as the narrator of most of them). There are also a great many flowery sentiments; for instance, at one point, Mandy explains that her and Jan’s willingness to break sexual taboos is “a perfect coda to an enticing tease we dared to pursue that simply exploded and catapulted us into a new dimension of euphoria.” Indeed, such dense statements as these end up raising the novel’s page count to well over 600 pages. However, the book covers such a wide swath of topics there’s little room for boredom. For example, readers are told of a brave cow that Jan and his friends encountered in the Nevada desert, are instructed on how to make a German cucumber salad (gurkensalat), get a brief history of Jarbidge, Nevada, and are treated to a long, obscenity-laden talk about suicide. At another point, the tone changes as Jan’s daughter reveals that she was molested by her uncle, and it turns out that she wasn’t the only one that he victimized; through open communication, the family is able to confront the troubling news. It all results in a highly unique, if scattered, tale.

A memorable narrative that can be a bit bumpy in parts.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 664

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2018

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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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