A dour but absorbing story about avaricious and disreputable characters.

A reformed convict aids law enforcement in a world teeming with corruption and moral ambiguity in Kyzer’s grim sequel to Brutus Nation (2016).

Kerry Douglas won’t have to serve the remaining four years of his prison stint thanks to the Athenian Union Interior Ministry, which has allowed him to join the United Vigilance. As part of this law enforcement group, he has free rein to make a “comprehensive strike against the criminal element.” He goes after the people who supply Athenia City’s citizens with the illegal drug NRG. Some unscrupulous types in his organization, however, have ensured that some NRG pills are coated with a lethal substance; this makes selling them a more serious crime, which allows law enforcement to hit drug pushers even harder. Elsewhere in the city, an owner of the professional sports team the Athenia City Grunting Hogs has a mysterious scheme underway involving the team’s co-owner, a drug lord who’s attempting to go legit. In addition, a local bookie chain is letting gamblers bet with home equity; those who lose too often also lose their houses. This particular venture, by the story’s end, links several characters’ stories together. Although Kerry’s battle against NRG ultimately turns explosive, Kyzer’s novel centers more on noir style than action. The narrative shifts through an impressive number of dubious characters, from a lawyer who works for a seasoned criminal to a couple of gambler friends roped in by the bookie chain. The author primarily establishes the cast members through dialogue—crisp exchanges packed with slang, offensive jabs, and humor, including numerous references to caffeinated energy drinks. There are a few scenes with multiple characters that are confusing and hard to follow due to the author’s minimal use of dialogue tags. The final act is somewhat predictable, but it resolves multiple subplots in a way that’s both satirical and convincing.

A dour but absorbing story about avaricious and disreputable characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-8082-6

Page Count: 174

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021


Roberts revisits a favorite theme: The power of community can defeat a great evil.

After escaping from a serial killer, a woman tries to reclaim her life.

After a childhood as an Army brat, Morgan Albright is determined to put down roots. She bought a small house in the perfect neighborhood outside of Baltimore, living with a friend and working two jobs to make ends meet. Morgan’s life is happy and fulfilling, and she is making progress on her financial and career goals. Her perfect world is shattered when someone breaks into her home and murders her roommate. At first, the police assume it was a random act of violence, but after discovering the killer stole Morgan’s identity and her entire savings, they realize the crime fits the profile of a serial killer named Gavin Rozwell. The police inform Morgan that her roommate was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; she was the real intended target. Morgan’s grief, coupled with the financial devastation from the identity theft, leaves her no choice but to return home to Vermont to live with her mother and grandmother. Morgan reconnects with her family and rebuilds her life, including landing the perfect job and falling in love. The police and FBI pursue Gavin, who continues to stalk and kill women, each time leaving a reminder at the crime scene that shows he’s fixated on Morgan as the one who got away. Roberts shows Gavin’s slow descent into obsession and madness as the inverse of Morgan’s healing journey back to herself and her community. The novel highlights Morgan’s preparations for the inevitable final countdown with Gavin, but the lack of immediacy and urgency of the threat makes for a subdued, restrained thriller.

Roberts revisits a favorite theme: The power of community can defeat a great evil.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9781250284112

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023


The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.

Twenty years after Chloe Davis’ father was convicted of killing half a dozen young women, someone seems to be celebrating the anniversary by extending the list.

No one in little Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, was left untouched by Richard Davis’ confession, least of all his family members. His wife, Mona, tried to kill herself and has been incapacitated ever since. His son, Cooper, became so suspicious that even now it’s hard for him to accept pharmaceutical salesman Daniel Briggs, whose sister, Sophie, also vanished 20 years ago, as Chloe’s fiance. And Chloe’s own nightmares, which lead her to rebuff New York Times reporter Aaron Jansen, who wants to interview her for an anniversary story, are redoubled when her newest psychiatric patient, Lacey Deckler, follows the path of high school student Aubrey Gravino by disappearing and then turning up dead. The good news is that Dick Davis, whom Chloe has had no contact with ever since he was imprisoned after his confession, obviously didn’t commit these new crimes. The bad news is that someone else did, someone who knows a great deal about the earlier cases, someone who could be very close to Chloe indeed. First-timer Willingham laces her first-person narrative with a stifling sense of victimhood that extends even to the survivors and a series of climactic revelations, at least some of which are guaranteed to surprise the most hard-bitten readers.

The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2508-0382-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021