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

THE CRIMSON WRAITH

LEGACY OF THE HOOD

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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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