A stylish and engaging crime tale.

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Manas’ thriller centers on a man with an innate supernatural ability to experience other people’s worst moments and how he’s drawn into a complicated plot.

When Julian Black touches someone, he’s transported into their minds and able to know and feel their most painful past experiences. As a result, Julian is a bit of a recluse; he doesn’t want to touch people accidentally, so he simply avoids everyone he possibly can. However, he eventually becomes involved with a young detective who enlists his help. As he and his abilities become more well known, he’s kidnapped by Sebastian Blaine, a thief from his past who possesses capabilities that allow him to erase memories. This person demands that Julian help him illegally access a classified government secret. Julian must either do as he says or pit his abilities against him—and see who emerges triumphant. This book blends many genres and handles each of them well, with superhuman skills alongside heist and thriller aspects; the latter, in particular, are sure to keep readers engaged with Julian’s fate. Manas generates an insistent sense of momentum that makes the reading experience tense and enjoyable, to the degree that it manages to accommodate some overly detailed visual descriptions of settings, characters, and even clothing: “He went to the closet and threw on a navy, long-sleeved polo shirt and natural linen trousers, along with a pair of cognac suede loafers.” Once the story gets going, however, this meticulousness allows for some highly visual scenes. The well-developed characters and their intriguing powers help set this thriller apart from the pack, and seasoned fans of the genre will enjoy that it feels comfortably familiar yet also distinctive.

A stylish and engaging crime tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2022

ISBN: 979-8986259109

Page Count: 299

Publisher: Somerton Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2022


Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Jack Ryan Jr. is back to risk life and limb in saving a teenage girl from international killers while his father, U.S. President Jack Ryan Sr., figures out what to do with Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment facility, hidden in a mine.

Junior, head of the secret intelligence outfit The Campus, which was functionally wiped out in Tom Clancy Flash Point (2023), is heading across Texas to a rendezvous with his fiancee, Lisanne Robertson, a one-armed former Marine and cop. He’s waylaid by the aftermath of a multi-vehicle accident that he discovers resulted from a gun attack that left a driver hanging on for life, and now puts Jack in the crosshairs of the gunmen. A tip leads him to a 4 a.m. meeting with Amanda, a single mom whose impetuous daughter, Bella, has run off with her highly undesirable boyfriend only to be abducted by the baddies. the nation’s capital, American surveillance has determined that Iran is on the cusp of nuclear armament. The only way to stop them is unleashing an unpiloted and untested super plane with massive destructive power. The book’s treatment of Iran’s “existential threat to the entire globe” as a subplot is rather curious, to say the least. You keep waiting for Bentley to connect the two stories, but that happens only superficially. Late in the book, we are told as an afterthought that Iran’s immediate threat had been “mitigated.” Unfortunately, there is no mitigation of the novel’s hackneyed prose—"The analytical portion of Jack’s brain couldn’t help but be impressed.”

Lots of violent action with little payoff.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422816

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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