A paranoid sci-fi fantasy that takes a spiritual turn; poolside reading for ashram fans.

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INVISIBLE FORCES

In a dystopic America, a data analyst finds himself hunted by his own company following his viewing of mysterious, otherworldly images on a camera card.

In this final installment of Scott’s (Tracking Terra, 2011, etc.) trilogy, a future surveillance-state America boasts implanted GPS trackers and nonstop monitoring of citizens by sinister corporations. And every corporation here seems to be evil (except maybe Home Depot). Daren Alec Kyle, aka Dak, displays advanced visual pattern recognition and 3-D acuity after a youthful head injury. He’s an intel asset for rogue corporation Cascade, which asks him to assess an old camera card ominously found amid human bones in the Arizona desert. The murky and incomplete pixels show odd circular shapes and could be anything. Dak subsequently suffers a night visit from his own doppelgänger apparition warning that the pictures are about “survival.” That’s enough for Cascade to turn on Dak, making him a fugitive. Fortunately, since “paranoia had become my middle name,” the resourceful (but nonviolent) Dak subscribes to an elite security firm that helps him during his cross-country odyssey to Florida as he deals with pursuit and betrayal by faceless foes and seeming friends. Dak intuits a connection between his plight and the hot topic of “Planet X,” aka Nibiru, a mythic 10th planet with a 22,000-year orbit, its intrusions bringing extinction-level catastrophe. He meets Kisha Anderson, whose own malevolent corporation makes her hype the Planet X theory while scheming to discredit her. Scott’s tale is Kafkaesque indeed; only in the latter half does the Shirley MacLaine–esque heroine of Tracking Terra enter from stage left. She’s Sara Alessa Giustino, a beautiful, ageless “Ascended Master” type, groomed more than 500 years ago by aliens to safeguard Earth’s evolution. This third installment of the author’s New Age–y trilogy unites elements from previous volumes while reading—mostly—like a stand-alone. Readers who expect this closer to be an apocalyptic showdown between good and evil instead get a muted finale, with Dak’s Pilgrim’s Progress–esque ascension to cosmic discipleship rather than the destruction of a Death Star manqué. With super-Sara in the mix, the story is almost akin to a Wonder Woman adventure that focuses more on mortal boyfriend Steve Trevor than Amazonian heroine Diana Prince.

A paranoid sci-fi fantasy that takes a spiritual turn; poolside reading for ashram fans.

Pub Date: April 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5320-3295-0

Page Count: 344

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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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