Well-told but raw as an open wound and not for the squeamish.

In this thriller written by a federal agent, the Drug Enforcement Administration investigates a “firestorm of fatal ODs” in a small Kentucky town.

Special Agent Casey Alexander and her partner have been targeting the Glasser family “forever.” The Glassers control the drug trade in Angel, Kentucky, but one day, they are shotgunned to death in their home. The Angel PD finds, among other horrors, a woman with wildflower tattoos on her back and her head blown off, one arm extended trying to reach her unharmed baby. But “Little Paris” Glasser is still alive, and he's the worst of them, “five feet of the devil….And every fucking inch of him hell.” The agents need every bit of their steel-spike toughness to deal with this demon, who smokes a mix of crank and wasp killer out of a 60-watt light bulb and sells drugs in glassine bags with pictures of dancing skeletons and the label “DOA.” As the law closes in, the action never stops until the final bullet flies in the inevitable, explosive confrontation. Scott’s writing is as vivid as it can get, with stunning lines like “Dillon Mackey hits his first home run ever, just as his mama, Kara, drops dead in the bleachers.” A character named Renfro is “an absence of light…vacant, a hole in the world.” The f-bombs fly as well, which would merit no mention except that there are enough to fill up their own chapter, and they lose their effing impact after the first few hundred. So Alexander and her partner may stop Little Paris or not, but the drug crisis goes on. This grim, gritty novel captures the feeling of hopelessness that the opioid epidemic brings. As Alexander muses, “Sometimes stories just don’t have happy endings.” Such as this one.

Well-told but raw as an open wound and not for the squeamish.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1294-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020


Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Jack Ryan Jr. is back to risk life and limb in saving a teenage girl from international killers while his father, U.S. President Jack Ryan Sr., figures out what to do with Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment facility, hidden in a mine.

Junior, head of the secret intelligence outfit The Campus, which was functionally wiped out in Tom Clancy Flash Point (2023), is heading across Texas to a rendezvous with his fiancee, Lisanne Robertson, a one-armed former Marine and cop. He’s waylaid by the aftermath of a multi-vehicle accident that he discovers resulted from a gun attack that left a driver hanging on for life, and now puts Jack in the crosshairs of the gunmen. A tip leads him to a 4 a.m. meeting with Amanda, a single mom whose impetuous daughter, Bella, has run off with her highly undesirable boyfriend only to be abducted by the baddies. Meanwhile...in the nation’s capital, American surveillance has determined that Iran is on the cusp of nuclear armament. The only way to stop them is unleashing an unpiloted and untested super plane with massive destructive power. The book’s treatment of Iran’s “existential threat to the entire globe” as a subplot is rather curious, to say the least. You keep waiting for Bentley to connect the two stories, but that happens only superficially. Late in the book, we are told as an afterthought that Iran’s immediate threat had been “mitigated.” Unfortunately, there is no mitigation of the novel’s hackneyed prose—"The analytical portion of Jack’s brain couldn’t help but be impressed.”

Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422816

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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