A well-crafted noir story that reads like The Untouchables by way of Stephen King.

BUTCHER'S ROAD

The life of an ex-wrestler–turned–Prohibition-era hooligan gets confusing when he’s sent on the run with a stolen mystical artifact.

Thomas (Like Light For Flies, 2013, etc.) has gained a well-deserved reputation for his keenly composed horror novels underscored with provocative masculine eroticism, and he delivers much the same here. In a blend of genres, his newest combines gritty Prohibition-era gangster violence with a paranormal conspiracy about a collection of powerful mythic objects. The book’s nominal hero is Butch Cardinal, an aging former carny wrestler who has stooped to serving as mob muscle in Chicago, despite having a strong personal code of honor. On a milk-run assignment to pick up a package from lowlife Lonnie Musante, the meet is ambushed, and Butch finds himself on the run with a strange tin crown known as the Galanus Rose. Making his way to New Orleans, he lays low with Hollis Rossington, a club owner and fellow former wrestler with whom Cardinal shares an uncharacteristic but not wholly unexpected physical attraction. Back on the street, Butch learns about the Alchemi, a secret society sworn to protect and secure objects like the Rose, which has curative powers. He tangles with two cunning agents of the Alchemi, a police detective from Chicago and an aging hit man who hopes to cure his ailing wife with the talisman. Thomas gleefully captures the hard-boiled setting in a propulsive story that reads like Frank Miller’s Sin City with a little slap and tickle here and there. “Laws were bent, broken and ignored because these men had power, because they had money. Humanity meant nothing,” Thomas writes. “Logic and honor and compassion were cheap commodities, easily traded for petty comforts and distractions. The only things that mattered were guns and knives, silver and gold. A human being didn’t stand a chance in a world that worshipped metals.”

A well-crafted noir story that reads like The Untouchables by way of Stephen King.

Pub Date: May 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59021-470-1

Page Count: 318

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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