This spy novel reveals itself at a calm pace through the memories of a loving woman. It is elegantly written and probes the...

RED JOAN

A World War II spy novel that delves into the complex reasons for betrayals of both country and friends. 

In 2005, an old English woman is being interrogated about her past when it's suspected that she was a traitor to her country. The questions lead her to relive her life and her loves and the complex reasons for her actions. In the 1940s, the U.S., Canada and Britain are collaborating on the secret physics of the atom bomb. Joan Stanley is a student at Cambridge University, “educated in the religion of reason,” and attends meetings in support of the Soviet Union and the bright promise of a collective society. Sonya, a fellow student with panache and an eye for men, takes Joan under her wing, introducing her to her cousin Leo, a proponent of the Russian cause. Handsome, erudite Leo pursues Joan, romantically as well as ideologically. Because of her education in science, Joan is hired as a personal assistant at the laboratory in charge of the U.K. portion of the nuclear project. Leo asks her to smuggle secrets out for the Soviet government. The argument is for parity, deterrence. If Soviet Russia also has nuclear capability, the Allies would never use their own. But Joan is steadfast in her loyalty to her country, and she's convinced that the threat of mass destruction is enough to end the war. Hiroshima changes everything for her and the world. Rooney elegantly presents a woman who was living a “calm and contented existence” when MI5 came knocking on her door. She has been found out after so many years, and the turmoil begins again in her life. Rooney has created a wonderful narrative structure in which the old woman’s memory is triggered by the interrogation; as Joan lives the past for us, she reveals most, but not all, to her questioners.

This spy novel reveals itself at a calm pace through the memories of a loving woman. It is elegantly written and probes the value of loyalty to a meaningful life.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60945-204-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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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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