MAGIC CITY

A 40-year-old photograph triggers a spate of killings in southern Florida.

Snake Morales is the son of a Cuban exile. The biggest night of his life came in 1964, when he was 12 and his idol Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston right there in Miami. Later that night, masked men and a masked woman broke into his house, killing his father (organizer of a small anti-Castro militia), his mother and his devout sister Carmen. Snake killed one intruder with a machete and mangled the hand of another, but his failure to save Carmen, the love of his life, consumed him. Stanton King, the charismatic young mayor, and his wife Lola adopted Snake and his kid brother Carlos, but this provided no relief. Fast-forward to 2004, when the washed-up former mayor notices a photo of the fight that shows him sitting beside four clandestine types. Realizing the photo could compromise national security, King goes bananas. He has Snake and Carlos burn every copy they can find. Carlos, “still a junior high punk,” kills the photographer for kicks. Enter Thorn, that free spirit of the Keys (Forests of the Night, 2005, etc.), along with his main squeeze Alexandra and her grouchy father Lawton, who has the last remaining copy of the photo. Thorn and Snake form an uneasy partnership to unravel the tangled history behind the incriminating photo and the Morales family massacre, which was both a crime of passion and a CIA plot. There are murders galore, but the premise—that national security is still at risk—isn’t credible, and the crazed avenger Snake is a troubling protagonist, neither hero nor villain in a genre that craves tidy definitions. Factor in four bad guys with separate missions tripping over each other, and the result of all the fits and starts is more confusion than suspense.

Disappointing.

Pub Date: March 13, 2007

ISBN: 0-312-27179-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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