A thoughtfully conceived but frustratingly overcomplicated tale of cyberespionage.

WHISTLEBLOWERS

A KATE ADAMS NOVEL

The CIA recruits a college professor to track down a mysterious computer hacker leaking classified information to the public in this thriller. 

Highly sensitive material purloined from National Security Agency computers keeps making its way into the news, much to the embarrassment of the nations targeted. American intelligence agencies are at a loss to uncover any clues and dub the perpetrator “The Executive,” since the kinds of secrets he pilfers are generally restricted to a high level of security clearance. Professor Kate Adams is asked to help the CIA find the cyberthief responsible, which leads her to clandestinely infiltrate the radical group Programmers for Peace and Freedom. She feigns interest in the development of technology for covertly maintaining financial accounts overseas and is invited to reside and work at a commune the organization maintains for its members. The group is an offshoot of another that has its origins in communist agitation during the 1960s but developed into radical anarchists, funded by the illicit trade of drugs and sex on the dark web. Meanwhile, an intramural agency battle over the case brews, pitting the NSA director, Adm. Doug Reynolds, against rival investigative departments, a tug of war that only intensifies after a computer expert reporting directly to Reynolds is murdered. As Adams closes in on the Executive, she is forced to painfully relive her traumatic past working for the CIA, memories that visit her in fits of panic.  Bell (Trading Salvos, 2016) weaves an intricate tapestry of intrigue, intelligently plumbing the bleak depths of international espionage. Furthermore, this sequel is a timely meditation on the morality of large-scale whistleblowing on government, an unpardonable act of treason to some and a courageous show of heroism to others. What keeps readers immersed in the story, though, is the emotional depth of the protagonist; following the attack on the World Trade Center, she was inspired to join the military and became the only female soldier attached to a Delta Force Unit. Readers are slowly, tantalizingly issued details about her painful past—they learn she was kidnapped and tortured, that her husband died, that she was betrayed, and that she was reluctantly drawn into intelligence work and seems resentful of her permanent status as a pliable pawn. In addition, Bell paints a disturbing picture of the competitive dysfunctionality of American intelligence agencies as well as the murky amorality of the internet’s shadiest corners. But while Adams’ complexity grounds the novel, the plot’s convolution undermines it; it becomes increasingly difficult to follow, with far too much laboriously condensed into under 300 pages. Instead of ratcheting up the suspense, the tale’s entanglements produce a feeling of narrative languor, slowing what should be a furious march to a climactic conclusion to a belabored crawl. Thankfully, Bell’s prose is lucid, and she produces some memorable exchanges between Adams and the CIA psychologist who functions as her primary contact to the agency. Early on, he tells her: “You’ve had to build some walls around yourself, I get it, but don’t forget to put in a few windows so you can see beyond them.”

A thoughtfully conceived but frustratingly overcomplicated tale of cyberespionage. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: April 14, 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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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