Enough characters, confrontations, secrets, and subplots to fill the stage of an opera house—and leave spectators from the...

REDEMPTION ROAD

After an absence of five years, Hart finds more to mine in the fertile land of the Southern gothic.

Hart returns brimming with plotlines and melodramatics. For starters, there are three emotionally and physically wounded characters. Front and center stands Elizabeth Black, a detective on the police force in an unnamed North Carolina city. Feisty, irrepressible Elizabeth has been furloughed after an incident in a cellar in which she pumped 18 bullets into two men who had bound and raped an 18-year-old girl named Channing. "Hero Cop or Angel of Death?" ask headlines, as a formal investigation into possibly excessive force looms likely. Elizabeth is also obsessed with Adrian Wall, an ex-cop in prison for the murder of Julia Strange. Black insists he’s innocent; she also suspects she loves him. And so she ignores department orders to stay away from Wall, seeking him out soon after he’s released from prison. Meanwhile, in a vivid scene that opens the book, Julia Strange’s son, Gideon, a 14-year-old whose “thoughts [run] crooked sometimes,” lights out from home and his father, “an empty man,” to shoot Wall the morning he walks free. Elizabeth, Channing, and Gideon are linked by troubled relationships with their parents, and the offsprings’ efforts to surmount the discord becomes a major theme in the book. There are, as well, other pertinent tropes—Wall’s case eventually raises issues of police corruption and prison abuse. Threaded through the steadily paced plot is a series of cross-cuts to the first-person narration of an unidentified man, a lurking bogeyman who moves, unobserved, among the other characters as he kidnaps and tortures several women. His identity is not hard to guess, and the familiarity of his scenes, however chilling, mars the plotting. A protracted action scene resolves the strands of the plot, and a touching epilogue lends a closing note of poignancy.

Enough characters, confrontations, secrets, and subplots to fill the stage of an opera house—and leave spectators from the orchestra to the balcony moved and misty-eyed.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-312-38036-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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