Strong writing and a swift plot make for a solid debut.

DARK SEED

NO ONE KNOWS WHAT EVIL GROWS

In Verigin’s debut thriller, a journalist takes on the story of his career when he agrees to write a book exposing the corruption and deadly dealings of an agribusiness giant.

Disenchanted with his work at the Seattle News, Nick Barnes is intrigued when he is approached by Dr. Carl Elles, a former scientist at agricultural company Naintosa. Although Nick had just written a positive article on Naintosa’s genetically engineered vegetables, the doctor convinces him that not all is as it seems with these supercrops, and the two arrange a meeting to look at Elles’ notes. When Nick finds him dead in his office, he can’t shake the thought that something is amiss: An imposing man claiming to be a police lieutenant arrives on the scene well before any other police officers, and a gray car seems to be following his every move. Nick doesn’t start putting the pieces together until he meets with Morgan Elles, daughter of the late doctor. Assuring Nick that she has copies of her father’s notes, she convinces him to continue with the project and write the exposé. Nick agrees, and the two set out on an international game of cat and mouse with the thugs who will do anything to stop them. Throughout the story, Verigin’s pacing is masterful and adept. He imbues Nick with self-deprecating humor and intelligence, lending him a credibility that makes even the occasional red herring a little more fun. Readers may find the perfectly beautiful Morgan less nuanced, and while Nick’s attraction to her is understandable, some may tire of his frequent descriptions of her outfits. Dialogue is lively and realistic, an asset in maintaining the suspense. The level of conspiracy in the story, however, might seem over-the-top; still, most readers will be quick to overlook it and get on with the ride. Verigin has left the door wide open for a sequel, and this entree should earn him a base of eager fans.

Strong writing and a swift plot make for a solid debut.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1927559178

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Promontory Press Inc

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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