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

PSYCHEDELIAH

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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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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Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

DREAM TOWN

An old-fashioned gumshoe yarn about Hollywood dreams and dead bodies.

Private investigator Aloysius Archer celebrates New Year’s Eve 1952 in LA with his gorgeous lady friend and aspiring actress Liberty Callahan. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb shows up and offers to hire him because “someone might be trying to kill me.” “I’m fifty a day plus expenses,” he replies, but money’s no obstacle. Later, he sneaks into Lamb’s house and stumbles upon a body, then gets knocked out by an unseen assailant. Archer takes plenty of physical abuse in the story, but at least he doesn’t get a bullet between the eyes like the guy he trips over. A 30-year-old World War II combat veteran, Archer is a righteous and brave hero. Luck and grit keep him alive in both Vegas and the City of Angels, which is rife with gangsters and crooked cops. Not rich at all, his one luxury is the blood-red 1939 Delahaye he likes to drive with the top down. He’d bought it with his gambling winnings in Reno, and only a bullet hole in the windscreen post mars its perfection. Liberty loves Archer, but will she put up with the daily danger of losing him? Why doesn’t he get a safe job, maybe playing one of LA’s finest on the hit TV show Dragnet? Instead, he’s a tough and principled idealist who wants to make the world a better place. Either that or he’s simply a “pavement-pounding PI on a slow dance to maybe nowhere.” And if some goon doesn’t do him in sooner, his Lucky Strikes will probably do him in later. Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the not-so-distant era when everybody smoked, Joe McCarthy hunted commies, and Marilyn Monroe stirred men’s loins. The 1950s weren’t the fabled good old days, but they’re fodder for gritty crime stories of high ideals and lowlifes, of longing and disappointment, and all the trouble a PI can handle.

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1977-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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