Still, there’s plenty of diabolical fun to be had here, with “I see dead people” happily rejoined by “But I wouldn’t call...

THE WATCHERS

From the Angelus series , Vol. 1

If Quasimodo had a love child with Holly Golightly, well, readers of this unchallenging but not unpleasant thriller wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

Debut novelist and former ITV cameraman/reporter Steele (War Junkie, 2002, etc.), a longtime resident of Switzerland, conjures a promising setup in which the oddball bell-ringer (in literature, there can be no other kind) of the Lausanne cathedral crosses paths with the superhot, superhigh-priced call girl who just happens to live across the street. Lon Chaney Jr. our ringer isn’t, not really, though young Marc Rochat knows everything that happens in, around and below his haunt. Katherine Taylor is no Esmeralda, either, though she has some of that gypsy’s soft touch. Enter third-wheel Jay Harper, a British Private Investigator who’s just arrived in Lausanne because people have been turning up dead all around the church, while strange noises have been coming from the basement. By some lights, that’s all to the good; says a friendly cafe keeper to Marc, “Surprise me sometime. This is Switzerland. We need surprises now and then. Keeps us from boring one another to death.” Well, one surprise is that Jay suffers from amnesia—but then, what detective hero doesn’t have a personal flaw to overcome? Another is that the efficient Swiss are inefficient killing machines compared to the fallen angels, halflings, monsters and other weirdos that turn up to duke it out, with the forces of good facing down the forces of evil and all that and sometimes not doing too good a job of it. Steele would seem to do a lot of borrowing here, particularly from the movies; some of the scenes echo the creepily apocalyptic 1995 film The Prophecy, while it’s probably not an accident that one of baddest of the bad guys shares a name with the baddest of the bad guys in the classic film Doctor Zhivago. And then the whole confection falls into territory somewhere between Stephen King (good) and Dan Brown (not good).

Still, there’s plenty of diabolical fun to be had here, with “I see dead people” happily rejoined by “But I wouldn’t call her dead, not really.”

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15874-2

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 77

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

HOUR GAME

A serial killer with a sense of history is the baddie in this latest from Baldacci, one of the reigning kings of potboilers (Split Second, 2003, etc.).

He kills, he leaves clues, he flatters through imitation: Son of Sam, the San Francisco Zodiac killer, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gracy, and so on down a sanguinary list of accredited members of the Monsters’ Hall of Fame. Suddenly, the landscape of poor little Wrightsburg, Virginia, is littered with corpses, and ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have their hands full. That’s because bewildered, beleaguered Chief of Police Todd Williams has turned to the newly minted private investigating firm of King and Maxwell for desperately needed (unofficial) help. Even these ratiocinative wizards, however, admit to puzzlement. “But I'm not getting this,” says Michelle. “Why commit murders in similar styles to past killers as a copycat would and then write letters making it clear you’re not them?” Excellent question, and it goes pretty much unanswered. Never mind—enter the battling Battles, a family with the requisite number of sins and secrets to qualify fully as hot southern Gothic and to prop up a plot in need. Bobby Battles, the patriarch, is bedridden, but Remmy, his wife, is one lively mischief-making steel magnolia. She’s brought breaking-and-entering charges against decent local handyman Junior Deaver, who as a result languishes in the county jail. Convinced of his innocence, Junior’s lawyer hires King & Maxwell to sniff around for exculpatory evidence. Well, will the two plot streams flow together? You betcha. Will the copycat-serial-killer at one point decide that King and Maxwell are just too clever to live? Inevitably. And when at last that CCSK’s identity is revealed and his crimes explained (talkily and tediously), will readers be satisfied? Only the charitable among them.

Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2004

ISBN: 0-446-53108-1

Page Count: 440

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more