While some sentiments are obvious, this supernatural tale ventures to unexpected places.

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LEGEND OF LOVADA BRANCH

BOOK TWO: PANTHER GAP

A sequel focuses on a small town and a secret place in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Book Two of this series sees Kyle and Wren Makepeace walking out of the wilds of Unaka Mountain. In Legend of Lovada Branch: Book One: The Cove (2019), the two learned a lot about themselves, thanks to a society that manages to conceal and sustain itself far away from outsiders. As Wren, who was adopted as a child, points out, “For the first time I know who I am.” Meanwhile, Kyle must come to terms with his own past and true purpose. But all is not well in the couple’s small town. For starters, the pair must explain the death of a relative named Porter. Porter met his end in Book One and, as this sequel begins, it is still not public knowledge. Once the death is disclosed, Porter’s children do not take kindly to the news. And it is certainly a shock for Porter’s mostly passive wife, Vestie. The town’s citizens are also upset by another change in their lives: the new population of migrant Hispanic workers. Though some welcome the laborers, even offering to help them learn about the United States, others are less inclined toward hospitality. Part small-town drama, part mystical experience, Karen Karper Fredette’s sequel creates a vivid portrait of a place in America with an element of the supernatural. (The novel includes black-and-white illustrations by Paul A. Fredette, the author’s husband.) While some of the country people may talk as if they stumbled out of an old Western (As one man points out, “A feller don’t git dirt under his fingernails at a whore house”), there is no telling what otherworldliness may lurk in the woods. As Wren seeks to guide Vestie on a journey of self-exploration, there are many intriguing details for her to uncover. But several resulting observations are exactly what one might expect. Wren goes so far as to declare, after hearing about Vestie’s ability at one time to make money singing old ballads, “That must have been so grand for you, Vestie!” Still, with so much commotion in such a small place, readers cannot be sure how things will turn out. This is, after all, a town where a most unusual settlement lies just up in the mountains.

While some sentiments are obvious, this supernatural tale ventures to unexpected places.

Pub Date: May 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-09-052572-7

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2020

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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