Another round of editing would make this an excellent legal thriller.

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REDDITION

In Blenkush’s mystery, a young, inexperienced lawyer’s seemingly slam-dunk murder case becomes anything but.

Lang Lawton is a junior partner at his uncle’s law firm, where cases have taken a backseat to his uncle’s alcoholism. Adding to Lang’s discomfort is his wife, who demands they leave their small town for something bigger and better. When a public defender drops what seems like an open-and-shut case into the firm’s lap, Lang relishes the opportunity to put his law degree to work. A television news report hints at something that makes Lang doubt his client’s guilt; the client, however, is a sphinxlike character who provides Lang with little help. As Lang continues his investigation, pressure mounts for his client to plead guilty. Lang’s life is in jeopardy when the once-simple case unfurls, implicating a high-profile political race and a Mexican crime boss. Blenkush’s well-written thriller successfully mines a well-worn mystery trope: “the more you know, the less you like it.” Lang, a sympathetic character, maintains stubborn adherence to the attorney’s code of providing a proper defense no matter the circumstances, which seems almost prehistoric in these days of plea bargains, pretrial deals and rushes to judgment. Blenkush keeps the storyline front and center, without meandering into any extraneous subplots that could sap energy from the main narrative. What works against the novel, though, is its exceptionally complex plot and large cast of characters. At times, readers may wish for a scorecard to keep characters and scenarios in order. Far too many cryptic conversations between characters occur, during which little is learned. Meanwhile, the plot hangs suspended in the background, straining to move forward but paused until the verbal jousting is complete. Nonetheless, readers will be guessing the outcome until the book’s satisfying conclusion.

Another round of editing would make this an excellent legal thriller.

Pub Date: March 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475113556

Page Count: 350

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2012

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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 solution is maddeningly simple but the construction, simply masterful.

ONE BY ONE

Our contemporary Agatha Christie offers up her version of And Then There Were None when 11 people are stranded in a ritzy ski chalet and begin dying one by one.

By the numbers, the streaming app Snoop is devastatingly successful, and the company is on the cusp of a major buyout—if the shareholders vote to take this route. The founders, Topher and Eva, are torn, and the other three shareholders are being courted to choose sides. Most of the pressure falls on Liz, an awkward outlier when compared with the glamorous, beautiful people who head up the company. Though she doesn't work directly for Snoop anymore, Liz is included in the leadership retreat: It's her and eight other board members at a lush, remote French ski chalet for a little powder, a little pampering, and a little back-channel business. Erin and Danny, the caretakers of the chalet, notice tension among the members of the Snoop group from the beginning, but overall it seems like just another wealthy, entitled corporate gathering. The weather on top of the mountain grows increasingly dangerous, and when nine people go out to ski and only eight return, fear and suspicion begin to grow. Then there's an avalanche, and the chalet is cut off from contact with the outside world. Soon, another group member dies, apparently poisoned, and then another is murdered because of something she saw. The survivors must split up to search for help before there's no one left. Alternating chapters between Liz's and Erin’s points of view, Ware does what she does best: Gives us a familiar locked-door mystery setup and lets the tension and suspicion marinate until they reach fever pitch. Another win for Ware and her adaptations of classic mystery traditions.

The solution is maddeningly simple but the construction, simply masterful.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8881-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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