Well-drawn characters and a dynamic situation but in the end, just a bit too much.

ON HARROW HILL

The seventh Dave Gurney thriller opens with a lesson on the unreliability of eyewitnesses and then takes up a series of lurid crimes committed in a village where nothing is what it seems.

Super-detective Gurney, retired from the NYPD, is still periodically drawn into especially difficult investigations, which is why his former partner Mike Morgan has called. Morgan's departure from the NYPD was not as unblemished as Gurney's, but he has landed well and is now chief of police in Larchfield, home to a number of wealthy individuals and mostly the creation of the Russell family. When Angus Russell, the current patriarch, is murdered in his own mansion, there is considerable uproar, and Morgan asks Gurney to help manage the investigation and divert a little of the world's attention from himself. The crime-scene evidence points directly at Billy Tate, a man who had strong motives for murdering Russell but who was, frustratingly, already dead, the victim of a lightning strike the day before Russell was killed. From this puzzling but admittedly gripping beginning, the investigation uncovers progressively more baroque variations on the theme of deceptive appearances. First, it's established that Tate might have survived the lightning bolt and the subsequent fall from the church steeple, because he was a tough guy and, well, who knows about lightning? More bodies pile up, and the emergence of several characters who also might have wanted Russell dead suggests that Tate may have had help. Morgan, while not actually obstructing the investigation, seems to have reasons to want the case closed quickly. At each turn, Gurney helps to classify, consider, and clarify evidence and the theories the evidence gives rise to, but he, too, is somewhat misled. The residents of Larchfield are an admirably unlovable bunch, seething with resentments and snubbed privilege, and Gurney and his wife are pleasantly down-to-earth, but overall the plot mechanics reach too far beyond the merely astonishing.

Well-drawn characters and a dynamic situation but in the end, just a bit too much.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64009-310-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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