Good, escapist fun as Mitch Rapp saves the Western world once again.

RED WAR

The 17th bloody adventure in the series started by the late Vince Flynn and continued by Mills (Enemy of the State, 2017, etc.) features Mitch Rapp hell-bent on preventing a war.

Russian president and “destructive sociopath” Maxim Krupin is dying from brain cancer, and he desperately wants to keep it a secret and hold onto power for every last possible day. Head of Russia’s armed forces and “brilliant psycho” Gen. Sokolov advises Krupin, “Your violent reaction to the chemotherapy and the potential for surgery…is going to degrade your ability to personally interact” with people, and so “we need a distraction.” Sokolov suggests they “annihilate NATO” to make Krupin look strong. Seeking hope for himself, Krupin has doctors perform experimental and dangerous treatments on other Russians who have illnesses like his. The CIA figures out that something has made Krupin unstable. So Mitch Rapp and his one-time foe, Grisha Azarov, go to Russia hoping to find Krupin, who might nuke Europe and the U.S. if it would buy him one more day leading Mother Russia. Fans will remember that Rapp and Azarov became allies in the last installment. Azarov had once been in the Kremlin’s employ as a heartless killer with no more personality than cardboard. Now he has a girlfriend, Cara, whom he deeply cares about (Oh no! Not character development!). But thriller fans need not fret that he’ll be changing diapers anytime soon. The dude is still second only to Rapp in the coldblooded assassination biz. Azarov wonders if Rapp has the same “longing for the simplicity of killing” that he does (not exactly a Norman Rockwell image). That doesn’t matter, because Krupin wants Azarov dead, and the feeling is mutual. More importantly, Krupin is “a wounded animal with a nuclear arsenal,” and Rapp and Azarov must stop him. Notwithstanding the obvious formula, events lead to a dramatic, you-got-your-money’s-worth conclusion.

Good, escapist fun as Mitch Rapp saves the Western world once again.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9059-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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