A charming and suspenseful page-turner punctuated by dashes of the surreal.

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FLORIDA MAN

A STORY FROM THE FILES OF ALEXANDER STRANGE

From the The Strange Files series , Vol. 2

A nerdy but swashbuckling reporter crisscrosses Florida to identify his college friend’s mysterious stalker in this second novel in Bruce’s thriller series.

Former Phoenix Daily Sun columnist Alexander Strange sets out with his papillon dog through the Deep South to spend some time on his Uncle Leo’s trawler, which is moored in Goodland, Florida. As a professional aficionado of all things bizarre, Alexander anticipates the Sunshine State will provide ample fodder for his “weird news reports.” Little does he know how odd his journey will become. His first peculiar encounter is with Madam Jazzabelle, a palm reader—or “Licensed Chirologist,” if you ask her—in New Orleans. After she foresees death in his hand, she abandons her practice and insists on accompanying Alexander on his journey. When the flirtatious Tess Winkler, Alexander’s old college flame who lives in Gainesville, reaches out to him, he agrees to help her uncover who’s been sending her threatening messages—although Amy Duffy, Tess’ spurned would-be lover and former roommate, is the prime suspect. The investigation eventually involves hush money, blackmail, abortion, and a conservative politician. The trio of self-appointed investigators are joined by Bristol Kreuger, a “full-on goth.” Together, they conclude that the disturbing messages correspond to physical locations on a “Weird Tour of Florida” that Tess once published. Bruce’s choice to structure the book as visits to these real-life sites, whose diversions range from the paranormal to the divine, is an amusing way to gain insight into the Southern state’s oddest nooks and crannies. Indeed, the situation comes to a head at The Devil’s Millhopper, described as “one of the largest sinkholes in Florida.” Overall, the book’s substance does not go much deeper than an average airport read. However, Alexander’s one-liners are certainly worthy of a chuckle, Bruce’s prose is consistently crisp and controlled, and the tension between the various characters is genuinely entertaining throughout.

A charming and suspenseful page-turner punctuated by dashes of the surreal.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tropico Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

A TIME FOR MERCY

A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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