An effective page-turner about a killer’s new identity and a prisoner’s long-simmering plot.

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UNFINISHED JUSTICE

A falsely accused reporter sentenced to a chain gang vows revenge on the man who really committed the crime.

In this tense fiction debut from Hutchinson (Out of the Cults and Into the Church, 2012, etc.), Ed Bowman, after 10 years working as a typesetter and filler writer for the Casey Clarion in Hannigan, Virginia, seizes a chance to advance his career, make his wife, Sarah, proud, and confound the disapproval of his mother-in-law. Sue Davis, the much-loved daughter of the prison warden of the State Penitentiary, has been brutally murdered. Bowman wins a chance to cover the trial in Richmond alongside writers at much bigger papers like the Richmond Times-Dispatch. When he overhears and reports a confidential—and damning—conversation between the defense attorneys of the accused man, Gunther Buford, Bowman’s future at the paper seems assured. But Buford, whose “ungovernable temper evoked fear even in his closest friends,” breaks out of jail, intent on murdering Bowman for writing the story that sealed his fate. In the ensuing violence, Sarah is killed instead of the reporter. Buford flees, and, in an ironic twist, Bowman finds himself arrested and charged with the murder of his beloved wife. While Bowman is suffering on a chain gang, Buford, under the fake name of Gus Mooreland, rises in the ranks of the Western Pacific Railroad, unaware that the reporter he sought to kill remains alive and intent on revenge. Hutchinson’s dual narrative of the experiences of these men is expertly contrived, and her characters tend to be enjoyable stereotypes (for instance, early on, Bowman’s “dream was to work his way up to Investigative Journalist at the prestigious newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch”). The prose itself can sometimes descend into clichés (“one fell swoop,” for example, and “moment of truth” are used without irony). But the fast-paced core story is served up with a good deal of dramatic energy, and the novel’s concluding scenes are genuinely gripping as Bowman slowly and uncertainly orchestrates his revenge on the man who ruined his life.

An effective page-turner about a killer’s new identity and a prisoner’s long-simmering plot.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

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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

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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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