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HARD GIRLS

A promising opening to what's billed as a series of Hard Girls novels.

Versatile literary mockingbird Lennon ventures into the thriller genre, for the most part persuasively.

Things are not as they seem. Jane Pool has a pleasant but dead-end job as an academic administrator, a hometown-sweetheart husband, a cranky but loving preteen daughter; she helps tend to her father, an aging and absent-minded professor; she looks like a typical upstate New York mom in her 30s. But, we discover, this ordinariness is deceptive: part aspiration gone awry, part hopeful mask, part dodge, part cover. Jane's husband's heart has soured, as have her feelings for him; her mother-in-law is eager to alienate her daughter's affections, and has as ammunition the fact that Jane gave birth in prison, a fact her daughter doesn't know from an era about which she's never been told. As the book begins, Jane stumbles across an encrypted email in her spam folder. Her estranged twin sister, Lila, has a lead on the whereabouts of the mother who long ago abandoned them, and Lila invites, or summons, her sister to join in the search. Lennon makes nice use of the initially inexplicable cloak-and-dagger of this, building suspense as the reader puzzles over why all of it—Jane's deeply buried secrets, her sister's elaborate spycraft, their mother's self-vanishing, and more—came to be necessary. The book jumps back and forth in time to good effect, and what we learn about the shocking act of violence that disrupted the girls' youth and eventually separated them helps illuminate their present-tense pursuit of their mother across the Mountain West and beyond. The first 40 pages or so are a hint slow to kindle, and the ending feels hurried, but the middle of this book is tautly suspenseful, cleverly plotted, and psychologically compelling; these are damaged, resourceful women who make intriguingly flawed, flinty protagonists.

A promising opening to what's billed as a series of Hard Girls novels.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9780316550581

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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CITY IN RUINS

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

The dramatic conclusion to the trilogy about two New England crime families begun in City on Fire (2022) and City of Dreams (2023).

Near the end of his journey, multimillionaire Danny Ryan watches a casino implode in a mushroom cloud of dust and muses about his life’s implosions: “The cancer that killed his wife, the depression that destroyed his love, the moral rot that took his soul.” Danny is from Providence, Rhode Island, and desperately tried to leave his criminal life behind him. But using a ton of ill-gotten gains, he invests heavily in Las Vegas properties. Congress is conducting an investigation into gambling that could destroy his casino business and even land him in jail. An FBI agent plans to take Danny down for major sins he’d like to repent for. Meanwhile, can he make peace with his enemies? Nope, doesn’t look like it. Even if the parties involved want to put the past behind them, the trouble is that they don’t trust each other. Is Vern Winegard setting Dan up? Is Dan setting Vern up? “Trust? Trust is children waiting for Santa Claus.” So what could have been a “Kumbaya,” nobody-wants-to-read-this story turns into a grisly bloodletting filled with language that would set Sister Mary Margaret’s wimple on fire—figuratively speaking, as she’s not in the book. But the Catholic reference is appropriate: Two of the many colorful characters of ill repute are known as the Altar Boys, serving “Last Communion” to their victims. On the law-abiding side and out of the line of fire is an ex-nun-turned-prosecutor nicknamed Attila the Nun, who’s determined to bring justice for a gory matricide. (Rhode Island really had such a person, by the way.) Finally, the prose is just fun: A friend warns Dan about Allie Licata: “In a world of sick fucks, even the sick fucks think Licata’s a sick fuck.” A couple of things to note: This not only ends the trilogy, but it also closes out the author’s career, as he has said he’ll write no more novels.

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780063079472

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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