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UNDER THE SNOW

Another engrossing literary thriller from the eminent Swedish novelist whose books in English translation (Witches' Rings, p. 1549, etc.) seem to be the most warmly welcomed Scandinavian fiction since Peter Heg's Smilla's Sense of Snow. Like that international success, this eerie novel takes place in a frozen wasteland: the remote northern village of Rakisjokk, near the Finnish border (``You might say,'' grumbles one character, ``this is where the world comes to an end''). A young artist named Matti Olsson has died there, frozen to death in the snow after a drunken row at, of all things, a mah-jongg party. Following an initial investigation that accepted Rakisjokk's communal declaration of accidental death, Constable Torsson from nearby Orjas is persuaded by David Malm, Matti's old friend and fellow painter, to return to this taciturn wilderness and follow up a teasing new piece of evidence. What they gradually learn—in a neatly constructed narrative that Ekman cleverly distributes among the viewpoints of several variously involved characters—is that Matti may or may not (as alleged) have attempted to destroy his own canvasses, that the beautiful English teacher Anna Ryd had good reason to dispose of that bag containing a coil of rope with human hair clinging to it, and that Matti's death may be connected to the earlier disappearance of a younger woman with whom he was possibly involved. Constable Torsson, an overweight, wheezing, complaining delight of a character, puts it all together impressively—even when his interrogations are complicated by the mysterious shooting of two reindeer, a missing mah-jongg tile, a constantly barking elkhound, and the revelation that just outside Rakisjokk there exists a former passesadie (``place of sacrifice''). Most impressive of all is Ekman's dazzling surprise ending, in which the murderer's detailed confession, told in the first person, immediately precedes the disclosure of that character's identity in the brilliant concluding pages. Irresistible: Save this one for a wintry night by the fireside.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48866-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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