A protagonist whose nimbleness while facing danger is something to marvel at—and celebrate.

The Devil's Jukebox

A VIRGIL ROY PROCTOR NOVEL

An ex-cop has only a week to track down a missing witness who may have an alibi for a death-row inmate in this thriller.

Born-again Muslim Shahid al-Muhamin is a condemned man, seven days away from the gas chamber for killing his eight-months-pregnant wife. His attorney, Andrea Faber, thinks she can save him on appeal if she finds a witness who was absent from Shahid’s trial. She hires Virgil Roy Proctor to locate Harley Flowers, a suspended cop who claims Shahid was selling him rock cocaine at the time of the fatal stabbing eight years ago. Virgil thinks Shahid’s guilty but takes the job, hoping to steer Andrea clear of the convict’s children, Keisha and Jerrell Franklin. He knew the kids’ aunt and may be behind their currently unknown whereabouts. In the midst of a custody battle with his ex-wife, Catherine, Virgil also needs viable income to prove he can support his 7-year-old son. The case isn’t as easy as it sounds: a man representing a mysterious client offers a hefty paycheck to find Keisha and Jerrell, and before long, Virgil realizes Flowers isn’t missing but deliberately hiding. Dealing with unsavory characters in his search doesn’t quite prepare Virgil for stumbling upon a brutal murder—with more than one victim. Virgil, not a bona fide detective, has all the earmarks of one. He moves from one lead (Flowers’ eccentric reverend brother) to the next and borrows money from Shahid’s legal counsel for payoffs. Sure, he may pull the occasional breaking and entering and pocket any cash he comes across, but he’s not without honor, always considering the children, even the two who aren’t his. Relationships are refreshingly atypical, especially one involving Candy Quirke, who avoids her cheating, stalker-ish ex-husband, Dennis, by staying at Virgil’s, taking his phone calls like an assistant. Despite its serious subject matter, the story is often tongue-in-cheek: Virgil can’t keep himself out of jail, but just watch how he gets away from his cellmate, a furious, NFL linebacker–sized man named Dennis. There are solid ties to the preceding Virgil-centric novel (for example, Keisha and Jerrell), but Knight (Zero Tolerance, 2010) caters to both new and returning readers.

A protagonist whose nimbleness while facing danger is something to marvel at—and celebrate.

Pub Date: March 3, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 392

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2016

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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