It’s all a little “cartoonish,” as one of Vic’s many victims says. But the combination of world-class villainy, exotic...

OFF THE CHART

After years of tussling with metaphorical pirates of every stripe (Blackwater Sound, 2002, etc.) fly-tying South Florida swashbuckler Thorn finally gets to go up against the real thing.

These buccaneers are updated, of course. They use satellite tracking to identify their seagoing targets and spend their shore leaves investigating real-estate deals. But the pirates who kidnapped Janey Sugarman, the nine-year-old daughter of the struggling private eye who’s one of Thorn’s oldest friends, wore a bandanna and an eyepatch. At least that’s the getup Sugarman glimpsed on his video feed from the chatroom he and Janey were logged onto when she was snatched from the yacht of Dr. Andy Markham, her mother’s beau, whom Hall can’t resist making a specialist in putting his patients in touch with their earlier incarnations. Vic Joy, the sadistic pirate chief who’s grabbed Janey, plans to swap her for Thorn’s ratty Key Largo estate, which he prices at $3 million. As the ransom note observes, there’s no point in going to the authorities, since Vic’s being protected by Jimmy Lee Webster, a rogue ex–Navy Secretary who only wants Thorn to flush Vic from hiding by rekindling his romance with Vic’s kid sister Anne Bonny Joy. Thorn, cut off from Sugarman when his old pal learns that he once refused to give Webster information about Anne that could’ve headed off the whole nefarious plot, is left to work in the dark while Sugar, still in daily contact with Janey via computer, tries to pinpoint her location by getting his precocious daughter to identify the local fauna and work out her longitude even as Thorn goes after Vic and his well-armed cohorts the old-fashioned way, by leading with his chin.

It’s all a little “cartoonish,” as one of Vic’s many victims says. But the combination of world-class villainy, exotic locations, quick-march pacing, and studly heroism also suggests Thorn’s channeling James Bond.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-27178-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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