John Worthington “J.W.” Mayfair used to fly bombing missions during the Vietnam War, and now he’s the vice president of a...

LIAM'S PROMISE

SECOND EDITION

In this debut thriller based upon a real-life 1996 plane crash, a young man must uphold his family’s honor while also facing ethical challenges posed by terrorists and the U.S. government.

John Worthington “J.W.” Mayfair used to fly bombing missions during the Vietnam War, and now he’s the vice president of a software company. As he leaves New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for a business meeting in Paris, he decides to call Liam, his estranged son, from the plane. While he leaves his message of reconciliation, however, he sees a surface-to-air missile launch from a nearby oil tanker, and his plane, TWA Flight 800, is blown from the sky. Authorities eventually rule that the tragedy was simply the result of a short circuit. Two years later, Liam, who never got J.W.’s message, still has nightmares about his father’s death, and his own life seems adrift and aimless. His mother, however, wants him to become involved in her planned lawsuit against TWA for negligence. Then Liam finally hears the answering machine message he missed so long ago, and he realizes that it could prove that terrorists attacked the plane. If he reveals the message to others, however, his mother’s potential financial windfall could vanish. Liam’s situation worsens when shady figures start gunning for him and anyone else capable of challenging the “short circuit” theory. Debut author Picciano delivers a meticulously crafted thriller packed with details that re-create the Flight 800 tragedy all too well: “The sea was covered with floating corpses…and the bizarre coating of gold glitter which had been blown out of boxes and now covered the hair and clothing and faces of the dead.” However, the story’s main strength is the author’s finely tuned characterization. For example, Liam, unlike his overachieving brothers, is described as being “like the boy who suddenly realizes that the only way he can see the hidden tiger in the 3-D image is...by simply relaxing and allowing it to reveal itself.” Sometimes the author’s colorful imagery fails, however, such as when Flight 800 is callously compared to a “Chinese firecracker.”  Such a description makes the gravitas that Flight 800 brings to the narrative feel unearned. The novel could have entertained readers just as well by using a fictional tragedy. A page-turning thriller debut but one that overreaches by pulling straight from the headlines.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Page Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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