A scary, smart, sweet, sexy CIA tale.

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Color of Blood

Returning to work after his wife’s death, a CIA investigator leaves on assignment for Australia, where he encounters danger, romance, and, unexpectedly, poetry.

As this thriller opens, CIA investigator Dennis Cunningham lies on the ground staring at the shoes of the person who betrayed and then shot him. The novel flashes back six months, when Cunningham returns to work after a lengthy bereavement leave. His boss asks him to soften his usual confrontational style and track down Geoffrey Garder, a junior agent who disappeared while working in Australia. What initially seems to Cunningham like a demeaning “Cub Scout assignment” becomes more intriguing when he arrives in Perth, in part because of his Australian Federal Police contact, recently divorced Agent Judy White. Cunningham is attracted to the Aussie with the shapely legs and upturned nose, and she is drawn to the gruff, blue-eyed Yank. As Cunningham learns more about Garder, such as his penchants for poetry and rare watches, the missing agent’s car is located in the Shark Bay area. It’s assumed he went snorkeling and became lunch for a great white. But when Cunningham discovers Garder’s belongings were covered in uranium, questions emerge. Believing the shark theory suspicious, Cunningham thinks the agent may still be alive. His investigation takes him home to the U.S., then to Switzerland, and finally back Down Under. Because Yocum (Daniel, 2015, etc.) has lived in Australia, descriptions of Perth and the surrounding area are vivid. While working the case, Cunningham discovers the beautiful colors of Australia—the green-blue waters, orange-red dust, and pink tufted birds—but he also encounters another hue, the color of blood. In an unrelated drug-deal case, White falls victim to violence but survives a searing torture scene. She and Cunningham learn that, aside from their jobs, they have several other things in common. For example, each has only one child, and both parent-child relationships enrich the book. The scenes of Cunningham and White helping each other on their cases are especially smart, and their romance feels genuine. Along with suspense related to their assignments and the possibility of being double-crossed, there’s tension over whether their extremely geographically challenged relationship can survive.  

A scary, smart, sweet, sexy CIA tale.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Kindle Press

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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