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COLLATERAL DAMAGE

Teems with as many details as the phone book and not much more engaging. Less breadth, more depth, please.

Cybersecurity expert Ali Reynolds has to stand aside for an army of other sleuths across several states to thwart the murderous plans of a recently paroled criminal out for revenge.

Even if you don’t count his abusive treatment of Danielle Lomax-Reardon, his lover, former Pasadena cop Frank Muñoz began his crime spree even before being released from the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex, where he'd been confined since he confessed to tipping off the powers behind a money-laundering club that they were about to be raided. Funded by the shadowy figures who’d promised him $500,000 if he did his time without naming names, and working with well-connected Lompoc lifer Salvatore Moroni, he’d arranged hits on Danielle and Jack Littleton, one of two fellow Pasadena cops who’d agreed to testify against him. Once he’s out, he relocates to Las Vegas with plans to hire lowlifes to kill Hal Holden, the other cop, who’s now retired and running a shuttle service, and Sylvia Rogers, the wife who’d divorced Frank, remarried, and moved outside Portland to be with her more loving second husband. When the men hired to kill Holden crash into his car, he’s carrying B. Simpson, Ali’s husband and partner in High Noon Enterprises, leaving both men critically injured but not dead and drawing Ali into a case that eventually attracts official scrutiny from Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota, leading to “a jurisdictional free-for-all.” As Jance multiplies subplots and characters, introducing new backstories as late as Chapter 65, her reliance on High Noon’s all-but-sensate AI helper, Frigg, seems to edge her ever closer to the futuristic world of J.D. Robb.

Teems with as many details as the phone book and not much more engaging. Less breadth, more depth, please.

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-982189-15-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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YOU'D LOOK BETTER AS A GHOST

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.

Dexter meets Killing Eve in Wallace’s dark comic thriller debut.

While accepting condolences following her father’s funeral, 30-something narrator Claire receives an email saying that one of her paintings is a finalist for a prize. But her joy is short-circuited the next morning when she learns in a second apologetic note that the initial email had been sent to the wrong Claire. The sender, Lucas Kane, is “terribly, terribly sorry” for his mistake. Claire, torn between her anger and suicidal thoughts, has doubts about his sincerity and stalks him to a London pub, where his fate is sealed: “I stare at Lucas Kane in real life, and within moments I know. He doesn’t look sorry.” She dispatches and buries Lucas in her back garden, but this crime does not go unnoticed. Proud of her meticulous standards as a serial killer, Claire wonders if her grief for her father is making her reckless as she seeks to identify the blackmailer among the members of her weekly bereavement support group. The female serial killer as antihero is a growing subgenre (see Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, 2018), and Wallace’s sociopathic protagonist is a mordantly amusing addition; the tool she uses to interact with ordinary people while hiding her homicidal nature is especially sardonic: “Whenever I’m unsure of how I’m expected to respond, I use a cliché. Even if I’m not sure what it means, even if I use it incorrectly, no one ever seems to mind.” The well-written storyline tackles some tough subjects—dementia, elder abuse, and parental cruelty—but the convoluted plot starts to drag at the halfway point. Given the lack of empathy in Claire’s narration, most of the characters come across as not very likable, and the reader tires of her sneering contempt.

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780143136170

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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