The Higgins thriller-engine sputters.

BAD COMPANY

The Higgins thriller-engine revs up for its 32nd, with Hitler's “secret diary” the McGuffin.

Berlin, April 30, 1945, and that is one bleak and blasted bunker in which Sturmbahnführer Max von Berger makes a command appearance. A diminished Adolph Hitler, his fate sealed, has a final mission for the decorated young officer: to be keeper of the “holy book,” his diary, to guard it closely until the day arrives when it can be used “to advance our cause.” Flash forward to the present. Fortune has smiled on Baron von Berger, propelling him into the loftiest echelon of high-rolling entrepreneurs (munitions, oil) and yet, at the core, he remains as he always was: just a simple soldier for whom the laws of loyalty are immutable. Loyalty to his cherished Führer, of course, but also to the beautiful Kate Rashid, late the half-British, half-Arab countess of Loch Dhue. It was British superagent Sean Dillon, series hero (Midnight Runner, 2002, etc.), who helped render the lovely but lethal Lady Kate deceased, an act of self-preservation if ever there was one. To von Berger, however, there's no such thing as an extenuating circumstance with loyalty the issue. He’d been half in love with the seductive (and willfully wicked) chairperson of multinational Rashid Investments—partnered her in a variety of clandestine ventures—but over and above this he credited her with once saving his life, of having wrested him from the clutches of some murderous Iraqi thugs. In behalf of Lady Kate, then, von Berger commits himself to “a Jihad,” with Dillon and his ever on-call irregulars the announced target. At this point, Hitler's diary (and the revelations therein) becomes what everyone wants and is ready to kill for, setting the stage for the obligatory Higgins bloodbath. “It's like a bad novel, the whole thing,” someone says, admittedly in another context.

The Higgins thriller-engine sputters.

Pub Date: July 7, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-14970-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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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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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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