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PSYCHEDELIAH

A gripping, titillating amalgam of provocative, interpersonal melodrama and effective noir thriller.

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A debut suspense novel charts the disappearance of a disenchanted former wife and the slow reveal of her furtive, fetishized sex life.

Jenson’s dynamic tale chronicles the troubled marriage of Paul and Deliah, a six-year union that has pretty much run its course. Sexually, Paul, nearly 30 years old and a self-described “vanilla boy of supreme proportions,” has been rigidly faithful and more than willing to please his struggling actor wife. But Deliah’s orgasms have always been a rarity and leave her unsatisfied and her husband feeling inadequate. Finally, she decides she’s had enough and leaves Paul via a kitchen-counter Post-it, and their life together in Southern California dissolves in a swirl of divorce papers. Abandoning his video game designing job, Paul sells his condo, buys an RV, and becomes obsessed with finding Deliah through a complex, mysterious labyrinth of whispered leads and tips; extramarital adventures; secret histories; and hidden pasts. There’s also plenty of action in a series of warehouse sex clubs where bondage rituals increase in intensity, which lends the story a kind of graphic, raunchy edge of fetish erotica. Paul tries to extract answers from John Laster, the last individual to personally interact with Deliah. But John delivers tragic news and further ignites Paul’s determination to avenge his ex-wife’s disappearance. Soon, a slinky submissive named Alex appears on the scene and is immediately thrust into a “slave” role, dutifully pleasuring Paul, whom she refers to as her new “Master.” It becomes a part Paul eventually makes peace with and ultimately relishes as his attraction to Alex deepens and she feels comfortable enough to reveal her identity as transgender. A strong undercurrent of vigilante justice, sex trafficking, rape, and abuse runs beneath the tale and shows Paul to have become quite a formidable presence when compared with the man he once was as Deliah’s husband.

Though at times the prose is overly stylized—a deceived Paul laments that “all my accumulated knowledge had been distorted and manipulated, baked in the oven of delusion”—the narrative remains unapologetic for its sheer sense of bawdy sexuality and an unrestrained depiction of BDSM master and submissive play in “full bondage regalia.” The disorienting surprise and confusion when attempting to understand a loved one who turns out to have a secret life are also handled with realistic frenzy, apprehension, understandable anger, and just a touch of suspense. The story is further energized by the main character’s realistic and unrehearsed dialogue, believable actions toward finding his ex-wife, and his slowly revealed, abusive childhood. The dark novel succeeds on several levels. As an erotic thriller, it includes lots of vividly aggressive, sexually explicit details of both the fetish clubs’ scenes and Paul’s lovemaking with Alex. And as a noir suspense novel/mystery, it features a well-paced plot and a simmering momentum. As the protagonist, Paul is believable as a desperate man eager to rekindle his marriage to a gorgeous woman who is clearly out of his league. He is a character who becomes increasingly self-aware as the story progresses, discovering more and more about himself as a man, a former husband, and a sexual being in ways he’d never imagined.

A gripping, titillating amalgam of provocative, interpersonal melodrama and effective noir thriller.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9651190-7-8

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Furthest Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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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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CITY IN RUINS

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

The dramatic conclusion to the trilogy about two New England crime families begun in City on Fire (2022) and City of Dreams (2023).

Near the end of his journey, multimillionaire Danny Ryan watches a casino implode in a mushroom cloud of dust and muses about his life’s implosions: “The cancer that killed his wife, the depression that destroyed his love, the moral rot that took his soul.” Danny is from Providence, Rhode Island, and desperately tried to leave his criminal life behind him. But using a ton of ill-gotten gains, he invests heavily in Las Vegas properties. Congress is conducting an investigation into gambling that could destroy his casino business and even land him in jail. An FBI agent plans to take Danny down for major sins he’d like to repent for. Meanwhile, can he make peace with his enemies? Nope, doesn’t look like it. Even if the parties involved want to put the past behind them, the trouble is that they don’t trust each other. Is Vern Winegard setting Dan up? Is Dan setting Vern up? “Trust? Trust is children waiting for Santa Claus.” So what could have been a “Kumbaya,” nobody-wants-to-read-this story turns into a grisly bloodletting filled with language that would set Sister Mary Margaret’s wimple on fire—figuratively speaking, as she’s not in the book. But the Catholic reference is appropriate: Two of the many colorful characters of ill repute are known as the Altar Boys, serving “Last Communion” to their victims. On the law-abiding side and out of the line of fire is an ex-nun-turned-prosecutor nicknamed Attila the Nun, who’s determined to bring justice for a gory matricide. (Rhode Island really had such a person, by the way.) Finally, the prose is just fun: A friend warns Dan about Allie Licata: “In a world of sick fucks, even the sick fucks think Licata’s a sick fuck.” A couple of things to note: This not only ends the trilogy, but it also closes out the author’s career, as he has said he’ll write no more novels.

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780063079472

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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