Readers will be rooting for Nate and Grace in this clever and richly enjoyable novel.

THE KORTELISY ESCAPE

A master storyteller weaves a tale of love, pain, and sleight of hand.

Nate Larson has been in federal prison in what the feds admit is a miscarriage of justice. His first two felonies had not even resulted in prison time, but then he attempted insurance fraud to help pay for his dying daughter's cancer treatment—strike three and mandatory 25-to-life. The feds release him to take custody of his granddaughter, who, as an orphan, has gone into foster care. The hitch is that he must testify against his brother, Dima, who is suspected of child sex trafficking. The Russian Mafia has taken over Dima's grocery store and used it as a pipeline for Eastern European girls, and Dima cooperates out of fear. If Nate doesn’t testify, he goes right back to prison. Fourteen-year-old Grace Larson is stuck in “foster care hell” in Massachusetts, being shunted from one “rental parent” to another, some of whom sexually abuse her. So when a court order sends her to live with Nate, whom she doesn’t know, she is deeply suspicious. Nate shows her magic tricks he’s perfected during his confinement, leaving her slack-jawed with wonder. With one trick using Russian matryoshka dolls comes wonderful patter about a girl in a heaven-on-earth Ukrainian village called Kortelisy in 1942. Of course that’s a lie, as Ukrainians were being murdered by the millions at the time. Grace learns the tricks and becomes his talented apprentice as the feds allow him to take her on a summer tour in New England to perform magic shows. Nate plans eventually to skip to Canada—without Grace—rather than betray Dima, who is old and dying. But Nate discovers he loves her, which she finally realizes, too. So whom to betray, his brother or granddaughter? Nate and Grace are both smart and deeply sympathetic people who have felt great pain in their lives. Nate wants to bring down the real sex trafficker, who’d like nothing better than to murder Nate and pimp out Grace. The plotting is clever and the details are touching: Nate and Grace might be related to Harry Houdini, and Grace might carry the “bent BRCA gene” that killed her mother and grandmother. Dima and Nate were the only survivors when the Nazis wiped out Kortelisy. The story twists, turns, and—presto! A brilliant solution.

Readers will be rooting for Nate and Grace in this clever and richly enjoyable novel.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-57962-542-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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