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THE FIREMAN

A satisfying tale overall, just right for the beach. Be sure to wear sunscreen.

Pleasing mayhem from horror/thrillermeister Hill (NOS4A2, 2013, etc.), the chip-off-the-old-block son of Stephen King.

When J.K. Rowling gets it, you know things are bad. And not nicely, either: she’s gunned down by a firing squad, and “her execution had been televised on what remained of the web.” George Clooney has already burst into flames. Why? Well, Clooney was doing his humanitarian thing, and Rowling was just trying to help young people unfortunate enough to come down with a scorching case of Dragonscale, a manifestation of a very unpleasant malady caused, as the epidemiological portion of Hill’s yarn details, by a runaway spore. The worst effects of the illness make themselves known to school nurse Harper Grayson when a street person bursts into flames: “His head tipped further and further back,” Hill writes with graphic glee, “and he opened his mouth to scream and black smoke gushed out instead.” About the only positive thing that comes of this pyromaniacal display is that Glenn Beck torches, too. But then, so do thousands of innocents, causing the usual end-of-the-world scenario, as good Christians form fundamentalist posses to round up and, well, isolate anyone who shows signs of the illness. Against them are arrayed the victims, not all of whom spontaneously combust. Harper’s encounters with this horrible disease, which brings her into the orbit of a mysterious Brit called The Fireman—hero and villain all rolled up into one—are overall less trying than dealing with her nasty husband, a master of passive-aggressive put-downs. Hill shares his father’s ability to write well and sympathetically of and for women, especially the hero of the piece, Harper, who has resources and intelligence far above and beyond what the menfolk suspect. But he also shares dad’s fondness for long, long stories; heft may be a genre convention, but Hill’s narrative too often grinds to a near halt under its own weight.

A satisfying tale overall, just right for the beach. Be sure to wear sunscreen.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-220063-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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