A poignant and engaging thriller with a formidable lead character.

THE BARRENS

Two young college women embark on a canoe trip down the Thelon River in Canada’s Barren Lands when a tragic accident turns a wilderness adventure into a battle for survival in this debut novel.

Experienced canoeists Kurt Johnson and Ellie Johnson, a father-daughter writing team, present a vibrant, tender novel of love, loss, stamina, and self-discovery. It’s 2019, and friends and lovers Lee Harvey and Holly Stone met at Brown University six months ago. Holly has paddled the Thelon once before, and she’s anxious to reexperience the beauty, excitement, and tranquility of the vast preserve in Canada’s north country. Less than two weeks out, after the pair transport their heavy packs to the top of a canyon, they stop to take photos, and Holly falls off the cliff into the river’s swirling waters. Lee scrambles down the trail and along the riverbank, keeping her eyes on Holly as the rapids spit her out just past the eddy. Racing into the frigid water, Lee grabs hold of Holly’s life jacket and pulls the unresponsive woman to shore. She finally gets Holly to cough and begin taking a few shallow breaths, but Holly remains unconscious. It’s a grabber of an opening, and the authors effectively leave readers hanging during the next 10 chapters as Lee, the narrator, begins to fill in the backstory that brought the women to this point. Holly is effectively shown to be a woman who wants “her life to read like a collection of unique stories, one adventure after another,” but it’s Lee who spins out the episodic tales of her own troubled childhood, a narrative device that builds Lee into a fully fleshed-out character. The character development continues as Lee endures grueling challenges in the Barrens’ magical but forbidding wilderness. The work also draws on the authors’ expertise, offering a wealth of detailed information about the techniques, equipment, and minute-to-minute decision-making involved in a canoeing adventure, which will appeal to aspiring paddlers.

A poignant and engaging thriller with a formidable lead character.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-950994-48-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

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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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A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

A tragedy has sent a young artist into seclusion. A potential apocalypse may be enough to bring her back.

For the past two years, 10 months, and 18 days, Katie’s lived in darkness, on retreat from her former life as a rising artist after a personal tragedy eclipsed any happiness she believed possible. Jacob’s Ladder, a remote island named by a former resident for its potential as a stairway to heaven, offers Katie the chance to hide from the rest of the world, merely existing, not healing. She lives each day trying to fulfill what she’s called “the Promise” to those in the life she once knew, though a promise of what is not clear. The closest neighboring islands, Oak Haven and Ringrock, are equally cloistered. Though Katie’s realtor has suggested that Ringrock is some sort of Environmental Protection Agency research station, Katie’s cynicism makes her suspect something more nefarious. The protagonist's remote world and the author’s moody writing are disrupted one night by the startling appearance of drones and the suspicious behavior of a fox Katie’s dubbed Michael J. The wary canine serves as a harbinger of potential danger, and Katie responds by arming herself to the hilt when unexpected guests descend on Jacob’s Ladder. While the true purpose of these visitors is unclear, Katie senses that the greater world is at the precipice of permanent collapse and that she may be the only one who can prevent the impending apocalypse.

A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-6625-0044-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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