A delightful mystery even if it seems more like a series introduction than its own distinct story.

READ REVIEW

GHOST DETECTIVE

In C.K.’s debut thriller, aliens save a detective who then continues to work cases—despite the fact that he turns into a ghost every night.

Private investigator Daniel Martinez died in a car wreck, or so he’s told by members of an alien species after he wakes up. They tell him that they could only “half revive” him; he’s alive and still human but only during the day. At sunset, though, he becomes a ghost. After he heads back to his detective agency, he tries to keep his new condition a secret, but his abrasive girlfriend, Vanessa, doesn’t make it easy. Meanwhile, he uses his ghostly state to his advantage, conversing with spirits of murdered people to help solve cases. However, when someone kills Daniel’s mother and makes an attempt on his life, the investigation turns personal—and it may also involve his father, whom he doesn’t even know. This novella is an enjoyable murder mystery—or rather, mysteries, as it features three different cases. (The others involve one client’s missing brother and another’s missing stepson.) As a result, it’s more like a short story collection in which all the tales are seamlessly connected. Daniel reveals outstanding abilities as a ghost; he can move objects telekinetically, for example, which comes in handy when scaring a guilty person into confessing. Vanessa, however, is an irksome character, at least at first: at one point, she quits her job and insists that Daniel hire her simply because she thinks he’s avoiding her. But once she knows his secret, comedy abounds; during their nights together, the invisible Daniel continually moves things around so that she’ll always know where he is. The novella is clearly intended as the start of a series, and as a result, it sometimes gives the impression of a mere prologue. Daniel learns a lot about his father, for example, but he hardly takes the time to deal with his unmistakably mixed feelings before he’s on to the next case. The aliens, too, have no part in the story after they explain to Daniel what they’ve done, although their sudden reappearance at the end is a wonderful tease for the next book.

A delightful mystery even if it seems more like a series introduction than its own distinct story.

Pub Date: March 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1496967626

Page Count: 108

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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

Did you like this book?

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more