A slender, potent slice of crime fiction; creatively inspired yet a bit undeveloped.

TRICKLING SANDS

A debut thriller focuses on a detective investigating his best friend’s murder.

Fasan’s adventuresome tale features two 30-something sleuths, both married with children, whose lives are upended when the unexpected happens. After a relatively tame night out at a bar after work, fellow Welder Ville police detectives and best friends Richard and Garett return to their respective spouses. Richard goes home to his wife, Serene, and 6-year-old son, Mark. Garett returns to his wife, Nadine, and their three kids. What follows is every parent’s worst nightmare: Richard awakes the next morning in a daze to discover his son missing, nowhere to be found in the house or elsewhere. When Garett’s best buddy doesn’t show up for work at the precinct, he drives to Richard’s house in a panic and discovers a young boy cowering in a dark corner of the basement. Mark hears the oblivious spirits of his parents drifting around the house. The author adds suspense early on in the novel by inserting young Mark’s terrified perspective into the story. His parents have become specters, but they are unaware of their own deaths. They have not yet figured out that they died by gunshot in their bed, and start searching for Mark. The double homicide rocks the local police district. Garett and a team of investigators are immediately on the case, examining Richard’s service pistol, which was the murder weapon, sparking a hunch that makes Mark a possible suspect in the deaths of his parents. As the killings cut so close to home at the precinct, Richard’s and Serene’s murders are made a top priority. The fast-tracked probe circles around Serene’s troubled family, specifically Richard’s brother-in-law, Haden.

With a swift economy of narration and plot, Fasan’s tale speeds its way through the classic machinations of a police procedural with a few spiritual additions tossed in, such as Garett’s seeing his dead partner in a dream state in which he is able to say goodbye personally. There’s also a good amount of twists for such a slim, smooth mystery. The list of suspects is short, but readers won’t really know who the killer is until late in the story, which is an impressive feat for a first-time author. There’s also a feel-good ending that somewhat rectifies the crimes the tale sets out to solve. The story’s biggest hindrance is its brief length: The book feels like the beginning of a bigger work to come and concludes just as readers will be warming to Fasan’s good-natured characters. Overall, the work suffers from sections of awkward phrasing and unnecessary exposition. There is also a palpable feeling of underdevelopment throughout. Even while the core tale is memorable and dramatic, readers may be left wanting further, more in-depth, and less rushed character and plot development. Nevertheless, though the case resolution does arrive in a somewhat hurried fashion, readers looking for a quick whodunit with vigorous, believable, if stunted, characterization and relatively little gore will devour this compact suspense tale about the sudden, horrific homicide of a loving couple and the grief of a son.

A slender, potent slice of crime fiction; creatively inspired yet a bit undeveloped.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2021

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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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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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