An enthralling crime-fighting saga that focuses on the people behind the mask.



This volume chronicles the fictional history of a superhero and the motley individuals who have donned the red hood.

Twenty-three-year-old Gracie Chapel fled her abusive household as a teenager. She grows into a capable woman who squares off against violent men in Titan City. When taking down one abuser leads to legal trouble, Gracie gets help from an unlikely source—the Crimson Wraith. He’s been the city’s resident superhero for 80 years. Around 1940, William Finn first wore a red hood and white-skull mask to “defend the defenseless.” Decades passed, and a handful of people (mostly men) took on the persona as well as that of the Crimson Wraith’s sidekick, the Wily Wisp. As Gracie learns, the superhero has a sordid background; one Crimson Wraith died in costume, and another is serving a life sentence for murder. But Titan City still needs protection from the likes of Queen Cleopatra and Dr. Oblivion. Gracie has the skills and tenacity to stand up against such supervillains, and she trains at Finn Manor to further hone her combat proficiency. She also may be able to help with a murder mystery: Someone has fatally poisoned Edward Finn, William’s adopted son and former Crimson Wraith. Gracie ultimately must decide if she wants to become a superhero. It seems like an extraordinary opportunity, but the good guys don’t win every battle. Sometimes innocent lives are lost, and Gracie wonders if the fight, in the end, is worth it.

Hughes’ engrossing book comprises four previously released novellas. Gracie’s story gives the quartet cohesion as she, along with readers, gradually absorbs the Crimson Wraith’s tumultuous history. Her narrative alternates with decades of the superhero’s tales, primarily set in the ’40s through the ’80s. The titular superhero has obvious similarities to DC Comics’ Batman, who, like William Finn, is a wealthy man with a secret crime-fighting headquarters in his manor and a frequent sidekick. But Hughes wisely concentrates on the saga’s distinctive characters and their lives. One Crimson Wraith, for example, is gay during a time that practically demands he stay in the closet; he faces a betrayal when a past lover threatens to out the superhero. The book generally takes itself seriously with few instances of humor. Likewise, the author doesn’t aim the work at young readers, as characters use profanity freely. But violence doesn’t overwhelm the volume. As Hughes favors character development over action, there aren’t many face-offs with supervillains. Still, descriptions of the Crimson Wraith’s goodies at the Finn estate are a treat: “Against one wall, an empty display case…stood amid an arsenal of smoke pellets, flash bombs, grappling irons, various pieces of surveillance equipment, a nest of flying drones” that Gracie “would learn were called Haunts, and gas canisters that must have contained the ingredients of his Infernal Mist.” While the ending resolves the murder mystery, a not-yet-caught menace suggests future stories in Titan City. Each of the work’s four parts opens with the original novella’s cover boasting Moore’s superb comic-book style.

An enthralling crime-fighting saga that focuses on the people behind the mask.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-68-066048-5

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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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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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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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.


Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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