After spinning its wheels in its first half, Hart’s novel becomes a chilling tale that’s hard to shake.

THE HUSH

Evil deeds from the past haunt the present in a darkly bewitched Southern swamp.

Hart’s ambitious, uneven, but ultimately provocative thriller initially seems set up along conventional narrative lines. In particular, the tale’s opening events suggest a legal thriller centered on two characters, Johnny Merrimon and Jack Cross, returning from the author’s earlier book The Last Child (2009). Now 23, Johnny faces losing the Hush, the 6,000 acre, half swamp, half dry land expanse in Raven County, North Carolina, that he’d inherited five years ago. Cree Freemantle, a young woman whose ancestors lived on the parcel for hundreds of years, is challenging his right to the property. The impecunious Johnny, who lives on his land, needs legal help he can’t afford. His old friend Jack, who works at a law firm, tries but fails to arrange pro bono counsel. Wealthy William Boyd, who’s offered Johnny $30 million for the land, wants Jack’s firm to help him persuade Johnny to sell, offering them a lucrative deal to handle any work on the lawsuit over the land's ownership. But then Boyd is the victim of a gruesome, mysterious death in the Hush, and Johnny becomes a suspect in the case. Hart now goes after more than a story of pursuit. From the outset, his characters express a sense that the Hush is a strange place occupied by unseen, perhaps even ghostly forces. Alas, the many references to secrets and strange occurrences in the place may tire more than they intrigue the reader, who will readily agree when, near the end, a character muses that "There is no normal in the Hush. There is only story and magic." Hart links the magic of the place to fact, flashing back to vividly written depictions of the arrival of slaves in the Colonies. At the expense of characterization—Johnny, in particular, never emerges as a fully drawn protagonist, and secondary characters verge on stereotypes—Hart vigorously renders this tragic history and its aftermath as a nightmare of violent, supernatural forces.

After spinning its wheels in its first half, Hart’s novel becomes a chilling tale that’s hard to shake.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-01230-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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