A must for fans of Dan Brown and Arturo Perez-Reverte.

THE LAST MONA LISA

What might have happened to the Mona Lisa when it was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 and stayed missing for two years?

Art historian Luke Perrone has been obsessed with the history of the Mona Lisa ever since learning that his great-grandfather Vincenzo Peruggia was the man who stole it from the Louvre. When he's contacted by an Italian professor who claims to know the location of Vincenzo's journal, Luke immediately drops everything and flies to Florence. There, he becomes drawn into two mysteries: one from the past (why did Peruggia steal the painting?) and one from the present (why has everyone who's recently encountered the journal died?). As he unravels the story of the first, he becomes more deeply embroiled in the second and begins to fear for his own safety—especially when he finds out he’s being watched. With the help of a beautiful American woman; an INTERPOL agent; and a famous art forger he meets in Paris, Luke begins to wonder whether the painting hanging in the Louvre, returned after the theft, is even the true Mona Lisa. Someone clearly cares enough about the answer to keep killing those who know about the journal, so Luke must rush to find the answers before he’s next. Through Vincenzo’s story as well as occasional chapters that share background on supporting characters, Santlofer crafts a layered and absorbing art mystery, complete with exciting action scenes and beautiful descriptions of the city of Florence and its art as well as Paris and Nice. It’s the human story at the heart of it, though, that really elevates the novel. Vincenzo’s motives for art theft are both pure and heart-rending, and Luke, flawed and struggling, seems to innately grasp what the person behind the recent violent deaths cannot: A work of art, no matter how precious, cannot be worth more than a human life.

A must for fans of Dan Brown and Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72824-076-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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