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CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS

Lacks both the juice of genre thrillers and the penetration of literary fiction.

A Faustian pact that might have been made by the Count of Monte Cristo plays out in present-day Cincinnati.

Years ago, three schoolgirls who dabbled in sex, spying and the magic arts of Santeria made a shocking accusation against their math teacher. The truth beneath their allegation was ugly enough, but the spin they put on it got Father Romero rusticated to a monastery in Iowa, far from more supposed temptation. Before his bus arrived at its destination, however, the troubled Cuban-born priest disembarked. He settled into a secular life and eventually ran into a mysterious fixer named Varick, with whom he struck a bargain: “Romero’s life for the promise of the ruin of Del, Alice, and Roxanne.” In the years since their last meeting, Roxanne has blossomed into a floridly promiscuous painter; febrile Alice has inherited a bundle, married dentist Thad Hudson and resigned herself to a life without the children she craves; and Delilah—well, it’s not quite clear what to make of Del, because apart from doing her best to mother Wendy, the five-year-old daughter of her divorce-lawyer husband, she doesn’t leave much of an impression. Neither does Dillon McVay, the angry teenager whose sister Amber has been promoted from Thad’s office to his bed. Even Varick comes off not as powerfully sinister but as a comic-book villain in need of a cup of coffee. Because Benedict (Isabella Moon, 2007) hasn’t decided just how otherworldly she wants to make the fantastical tale of Romero’s revenge, it veers uncontrollably from kitchen-sink naturalism to things that go bump in the night. The book appears to have been thought out in terms of a series of set pieces. Without a sustained plot, it never gathers the momentum or generates the sympathy its subject might seem to guarantee.

Lacks both the juice of genre thrillers and the penetration of literary fiction.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-345-49769-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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