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LEONA

THE DIE IS CAST

Psychology-driven crime drama with a learner's permit.

The misadventures of Leona Lindberg, cop and criminal.

A bank is robbed by a naked 7-year-old girl, covered in blood, who plays a recorded demand for money and disappears with the cash. Leona Lindberg, a detective in the Violent Crimes Division of Stockholm’s police force, agrees to take the case; in time the reader learns she is the mastermind of the robbery. Married and the mother of two, Leona finds all her roles confining. Though a neurological condition is never specifically named, she is emotionally disconnected from everyone except her children, is a little compulsive about aligning tables and leveling pictures, and was an abused child. Two years earlier she began the process that would release her from “striving to be like other people,” and the planning and execution of this robbery is a step in that process, and thus “the die is cast,” as the subtitle says. It's not hard for Leona to clog the investigation, but a clever reporter has photos of her with the mysterious bank-robbing child, which he uses to blackmail her for information about a story he has an interest in, and his knowledge remains a serious threat to her plans. Leona reveals a poker habit, both online and live, though the descriptions of hands she plays suggest that neither she nor the author are especially skillful. Leona’s son is diagnosed with a condition requiring surgery, but Leona has lost all of her family’s savings. More robberies are committed, and the situation spirals out of control. But by then it’s hard to care very much about Leona’s fate. In effect, Leona is an assemblage of parts: possibly OCD or on the autism spectrum; a victim of childhood abuse; a gambling addict; a wife bored and confined by Swedish middle-class values; a detective stifled by workplace procedures and chauvinism—all of which (except the poker) are convincingly presented, but unlike the good doctor’s assemblage, she never comes alive. There are similar lapses in the plotting. For example, why do bank officials and bystanders not simply scoop up a bloody, naked child and turn her over to the police? In a later robbery she’s rigged up with a phony bomb, which makes such inaction a little more believable. But by then the plans are beyond repair.

Psychology-driven crime drama with a learner's permit.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59051-882-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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DEVOLUTION

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

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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