Hearty backstories and a beguiling Louisiana setting enhance this compelling thriller.

PILLARS OF SALT

In Adams’ 1980-set thriller, a U.S. Air Force major is determined to prove that his estranged father was murdered.

When Maj. Harvey “H” Doucet gets word that his father, Harvey Sr., is dead, he requests emergency leave and heads from North Carolina to Louisiana. His father’s successful company, Doucet Drilling, is already dealing with another recent tragedy: An oil rig drilled directly into a salt mine, killing numerous workers. Sapphire Salt filed suit against Doucet Drilling and Calco Oil, and each of the latter businesses blamed the other for the flawed map that precipitated the accident. It initially appears as if it was all too much for Harvey Sr., whose death was ruled a suicide. H and Harvey Sr. didn’t get along—H’s spoiled younger brother, Victor, was his father’s favorite—but H refuses to believe that his dad would ever kill himself. With the help of Harvey Sr.’s loyal bodyguard, Placide, he starts a personal investigation into his father’s demise. It soon becomes clear that someone doesn’t want H asking too many questions; H spots a car following him, which then tries to run him off the road. Later, he and Placide witness an explosion that was clearly meant to kill them. Their search for answers takes them to Memphis, Tennessee, where they unearth evidence of possible fraud. Before long, even H’s beloved Aunt Ethel and Uncle Louis are under threat, and another suspicious suicide only confirms that H and Placide are on the right track. Adams’ novel begins with a bang as a Louisiana man, Auguste Savois, goes fishing with his 8-year-old grandson, and a sudden current nearly pulls their riverboat into an apparent whirlpool. This is followed by equally tense, memorable scenes inside the salt mine and aboard the oil rig. From there, Adams opts for a more leisurely pace, as H’s investigation involves interviewing myriad characters. Nevertheless, the protagonist’s family history is thoroughly engaging. Harvey Sr., for example, was so distraught by his wife’s death years ago that he focused on his company instead of his two young sons, whom Ethel and Louis raised, instead. This helps to make H’s aunt and uncle even more endearing—and makes them prime targets for the bad guys. Victor, who’s certain that he’ll inherit Doucet Drilling, generates some melodrama along the way. The author’s frequent descriptions of Louisiana reveal a clear fondness for narrator H’s home state; as H muses, “The sky was a clear, crisp blue, as oil field industry trucks and tankers roared by us on Highway 90. The rare kind of late fall day in Louisiana when the humidity drops so low that the sky is lapis lazuli, and everything looks like it’s just been scrubbed.” The story’s steady momentum gradually accelerates, and H and Placide, a former security guard who got his job after saving Harvey Sr.’s life, ultimately arm themselves. The expected gunfight doesn’t disappoint, and a subsequent wrap-up, though lengthy, delivers a worthy denouement.

Hearty backstories and a beguiling Louisiana setting enhance this compelling thriller.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 258

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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