WHITE FLAME

By the author of River of Darkness (1991), among several others, a so-so Washington thriller whose best scenes, though, rise to memorable heights. The FBI must avert the assassination of Faron Sears, a black man and billionaire ex-con who's a likely presidential candidate, a highly original philanthropist, and a charismatic figure. Through an illegal wiretap, the Bureau discovers that Sears is targeted for death on Valentine's Day two weeks hence. Assigned to save him is Agent Dalton Cole, who is assisted by FBI Special Agent Sallie Pickett, a black, and D.C. Homicide Detective Nick Sherman, an alcoholic but a top investigator. Using vast police resources while remaining covert (to hide the Bureau's illegal tap), they pinpoint nut-case Kurt Vance, a master of many dangerous arts who seems to know ahead of time all of Cole's moves and leaves a cross-country trail of gory murders while heading inexorably from Idaho to Washington. Cole and Sallie Pickett inform Sears about the danger and get cover jobs in his organization. But someone in Sears's group is a traitor who has hired the killer. Meanwhile, Cole and Vance trail Sears and are present when he delivers a profoundly moving speech to an audience of hard-nosed black adolescents who begin by distrusting him and end mesmerized by his uncompromising words. This is, frankly, the novel's high point, though Sears lifts every scene he's in. Grady, once a staffer for Jack Anderson, knows his background stuff and routinely disorients the reader with his plot-flow of FBI departments and Congressional committees. Aside from Sears, standard tension prevails. Sold to the movies. Whoever plays the actor-proof role of Sears (James Earl Jones? Morgan Freeman?) already has a headlock on an Oscar nomination. Grady has created a protagonist who lingers in the mind long after the last shot is fired. (Film rights to Tristar; $200,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-7871-0903-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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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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Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

HOUR GAME

A serial killer with a sense of history is the baddie in this latest from Baldacci, one of the reigning kings of potboilers (Split Second, 2003, etc.).

He kills, he leaves clues, he flatters through imitation: Son of Sam, the San Francisco Zodiac killer, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gracy, and so on down a sanguinary list of accredited members of the Monsters’ Hall of Fame. Suddenly, the landscape of poor little Wrightsburg, Virginia, is littered with corpses, and ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have their hands full. That’s because bewildered, beleaguered Chief of Police Todd Williams has turned to the newly minted private investigating firm of King and Maxwell for desperately needed (unofficial) help. Even these ratiocinative wizards, however, admit to puzzlement. “But I'm not getting this,” says Michelle. “Why commit murders in similar styles to past killers as a copycat would and then write letters making it clear you’re not them?” Excellent question, and it goes pretty much unanswered. Never mind—enter the battling Battles, a family with the requisite number of sins and secrets to qualify fully as hot southern Gothic and to prop up a plot in need. Bobby Battles, the patriarch, is bedridden, but Remmy, his wife, is one lively mischief-making steel magnolia. She’s brought breaking-and-entering charges against decent local handyman Junior Deaver, who as a result languishes in the county jail. Convinced of his innocence, Junior’s lawyer hires King & Maxwell to sniff around for exculpatory evidence. Well, will the two plot streams flow together? You betcha. Will the copycat-serial-killer at one point decide that King and Maxwell are just too clever to live? Inevitably. And when at last that CCSK’s identity is revealed and his crimes explained (talkily and tediously), will readers be satisfied? Only the charitable among them.

Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2004

ISBN: 0-446-53108-1

Page Count: 440

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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