There’s not much suspense about the possible crime, but Jones builds intense tension surrounding the choices her flawed but...

THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME

The residents of a small Kentucky town react to the disappearance of a local woman in this first novel by short story writer Jones (Girl Trouble, 2009).

Emily Houchens, a lonely, deeply unhappy 13-year-old, finds a woman’s dead body while walking in the woods near the working-class subdivision where her family lives. She decides not to tell anyone. Instead, she continues to visit the body, fantasizing that she is sharing her adventure with Christopher Shelton, a popular boy who was kind to her in the past but has turned cruel because her obvious crush makes him uncomfortable. At the same time, Susanna Mitchell, Emily’s competent but insecure English teacher who has been defensively intimidated by Christopher’s highly educated mother, becomes increasingly concerned that she hasn’t heard from her hard-drinking, slightly disreputable older sister Ronnie for longer than usual. Her husband, Dale, a high school band coach who never approved of Ronnie, pooh-poohs her concern, but when Susanna stops by Ronnie’s apartment, she finds worrisome evidence that Ronnie’s sudden departure was not planned. The police detective assigned to Ronnie’s case is Tony Joyce, an old classmate of Susanna’s; she had a crush on him in high school (not unlike Emily’s on Christopher) but was afraid to date him since he was black. As distraught as she is about Ronnie’s disappearance, Susanna is also excited to work on the case with Tony, whose reappearance in her life underlines her dissatisfaction with her marriage to Dale. Yet Dale, who genuinely loves Susanna and their 4-year-old daughter, proves more self-aware than Susanna. Meanwhile, Emily’s father takes in his co-worker Wyatt’s dog after Wyatt suffers a heart attack, the culmination of the humiliation he experienced in a bar the night Ronnie went missing. And then there is Ronnie’s own humiliation that night. 

There’s not much suspense about the possible crime, but Jones builds intense tension surrounding the choices her flawed but compellingly sympathetic characters make as they fight against lonely isolation within the tight confines of small-town America.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8336-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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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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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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