A taut and suspenseful tale on the ocean.

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In this debut thriller, a woman has nowhere to run when she’s stuck on a yacht at sea with her rabid husband.

Following the death of her infant daughter, Dagny Steele grapples with depression for six months. Her husband, Brad Coolidge, believing they both need to get away, plans a monthlong yacht excursion. They leave their Massachusetts home for Bali, where they set sail. Brad, with more nautical experience, is the captain, and for a while, it’s smooth sailing. But then the couple start having trouble. Brad is sometimes frighteningly aggressive with Dagny, who also has reason to suspect he’s keeping secrets, like an affair. These problems only exacerbate adversities on the water, from monsoons and trailing sharks to the possibility of pirates. Worst of all, Brad has been sick from the start, and his condition is deteriorating. Dagny is certain it stems from a bat bite he received in Bali, but Brad stubbornly refuses treatment and doesn’t want to bring the yacht to port. When his ailment becomes a likely case of furious rabies, Brad is incoherent, violent, and potentially lethal. Dagny will have to fight him to make it safely ashore. Higgins’ story is fraught with tension. Even before Brad’s sickness worsens, there are nerve-wracking moments, like a ship that may be following the yacht. All of readers’ sympathies will go to Dagny, who has a fear of water due to a family tragedy. In contrast, Brad is condescending as well as spiteful when Dagny denies him sex. He’s also utterly terrifying when showing rabies symptoms. The author writes concise, white-knuckle scenes as Dagny wisely hides from her husband: “Brad stood in the berth doorway, his fists balled, and his hair matted with sweat. He stared into the empty cabin and cocked his head, as if he sensed me nearby.” The story culminates in an unforgettable final act.

A taut and suspenseful tale on the ocean. (dedication, acknowledgements)

Pub Date: May 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-944715-96-0

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2021


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


Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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