A solid blend of genres, though the writing and characters shine brightest.

THE STORY OF THE CLOTH

After a fairy grants his wish, a London architect becomes caught up in the perilous search for a centuries-old cloth displaying a divine image in this fantasy-infused debut.

Alex Harrison had often contemplated what to say to a wish-bestowing fairy. So when he runs into one—“a young, white-robed woman”—at Regent’s Park, he makes sure his wording is precise to avoid a “Monkey’s Paw” scenario. He requests the ability to travel anywhere in the world by simply thinking of it, speaking a couple of words, and tapping his knee. He later doubts the fairy’s validity until he successfully teleports to Oman. That’s where he encounters tenderhearted Burhan, who has a fascinating story to tell of a cloth that, back in the 12th century, reputedly captured the figure of God. Alex has no luck in tracking the cloth but does become enamored with a fellow train passenger, Carol. The two meet and Alex invites Carol to his architectural gig in France. Unfortunately, Burhan’s unsavory cousin, Salah, covets the cloth. Convinced Alex and Burhan can find it within a week, Salah gives them an incentive by kidnapping Carol. Burhan goes after the cloth while Alex’s new ability may prove beneficial in rescuing Carol before the deadline. Paterson takes a curious approach here in that the protagonist’s teleportation power isn’t the focus of the story. The author instead explores the engaging friendship between Alex and Burhan as well as the uncertain romance with Carol. (Alex is confounded that she’s living with a man named John.) But there are harrowing moments; Salah is unmistakably dangerous, and Alex rightly fears for Carol’s safety. And much of the engrossing tale lingers on the various environments presented throughout the narrative. Paterson’s exceptional prose turns the seemingly mundane into alluring imagery: At a shop in France, Alex sees “everything an animal had to offer in death… and a few of the things it provided while alive” (eggs and cheese, of course).

A solid blend of genres, though the writing and characters shine brightest.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 222

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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