This unvarnished, all-action, hi-lo lit features a would-be PI who is largely, but not entirely, clueless.

Would-be sleuth Johnny allows himself to be hired against his libido-clouded judgment by a pair of teen hotties to find out whether bad-news punk Lee Kirk is seeing a certain “ugly little bitch.” He quickly discovers that he’s been set up to take the rap for the bloody murder of a gang leader. Happily, Johnny turns out to have more allies than enemies in the run-down housing project where he lives with his mother. Writing in short chapters of simply phrased staccato prose, Brooks propels his amateur detective past an unlikely escape from pursuing police to a rooftop climax that ends with a likely opening for sequels. Narrator Johnny has a knack for noir phrasing that’s abetted by his naïveté: “The problem is this. The Most Beautiful Girl in the World was sitting on my bed, and The Second Most Beautiful Girl in the World was sitting next to her. And they were both wearing very tight clothes. That was the problem.” Another violent, mean-streets caper along the lines of Kissing the Rain (2004), but at about one-quarter the page count, catering more to reluctant readers than avid ones. (Mystery. 10-12) 


Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-78112-116-0

Page Count: 81

Publisher: Stoke Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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In the wake of a destructive dustup with ghosts in the surprisingly rich rare-book room of their suburban public library,...



From the Ghosts of Rockville series , Vol. 1

Young ghost hunters barely start their search for a magical artifact in this fragmentary series opener.

In the wake of a destructive dustup with ghosts in the surprisingly rich rare-book room of their suburban public library, classmates Jay, Pam, Danni and Brian find themselves in a race with shadowy but plainly evil opponents. Their mutual goal is to track down a crystal that can summon and control the spirits of the dead. First, though, they have to secure a certain Key by puzzling out cryptic rhymes that lead in apparently arbitrary fashion to grave markers, nearby crop circles and a local medium. A climactic spectral attack adds a bit of drama, though it leaves the quartet at the end no closer to the Key—much less the sub-titular glass. Along with page images of stodgy background from an “Encyclopedia of the Paranormal” (evidently a fictional one, not to be confused with the two actual reference sources bearing that title), some illustrations look blank until a small, included (and easily lost) square of lenticular plastic is laid over to reveal hidden messages or pictures.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-934734-48-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Seven Footer Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking.


An accused murderer is thrust into an assassin training program.

Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere is serving hard time after a hazy night with her former best friend, Rose, which ended with Rose’s body in her lap, an emotional trial, and the media moniker the “Girl from Hell.” After her caseworker, Dave, assures Signal there’s no way she’ll get a successful appeal, he offers her an alternative: being shipped off to a mysterious camp and enrolled in a top-secret government training program unofficially known as the Teen Killers Club. There, Signal and other adolescent Class A felons (the most dangerous kind) undergo various drills—among them, dismembering fake corpses and dissolving flesh in acid—in preparation for eventually being used as assassins against government targets. The teens have been injected with a device remotely controlled by their trainers that will kill them if they attempt to escape the camp or otherwise disobey orders. As Signal nurses an attraction to sensitive tattooed Javier and fights her feelings for handsome sociopath Erik, she begins to piece together what really happened that night with Rose. Sparks crafts a page-turner with a disturbingly unusual premise, snappy dialogue, and characters that go deeper than their heinous crimes. Signal and Erik are assumed White; love interest Javier is cued as Latinx, and there is some diversity in the supporting cast.

A mystery/thriller that’s equal parts heartfelt and shocking. (Thriller. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-229-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Clever in small doses—tedious after the first few dozen entries.



A routine writing exercise filled with in-jokes and carried to ridiculous extremes by a mammoth stable of YA and children’s authors.

Produced to benefit the creative writing program 826NYC, the anthology consists of alibis of various length offered by 83 (!) alphabetically ordered contributors accused of killing evil editor Herman Q. Mildew. Along with making frequent reference to cheese (the stinky sort, natch), pickles and frozen legs of lamb, some “suspects” protest their inability to meet any deadline (Libba Bray) or map out a scheme (“Plotting has never been my strong point. Just read any of my books,” writes Sarah Darer Littman). Others protest that they adored the victim despite his habit of callously rejecting their story ideas, mistreating their manuscripts, insulting their pets, calling them at odd hours and bilking them of royalties. Dave Eggers and Greg Neri provide lists of explicitly described ways in which they did not kill Mildew, Mo Willems and Michael Northrup claim to have been off killing someone else at the time, and Elizabeth Eulberg, Mandy Hubbard, John Green, Lauren Myracle and several others shift the blame to fellow writers. Young readers, even the sort who worship authors, will find their eyes soon glazing over.

Clever in small doses—tedious after the first few dozen entries. (author bios) (Belles lettres. 10-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61695-152-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Soho Teen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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