With its flat, staccato tone and mournful mood, it’s almost as if the book itself were suffering from depression.

READ REVIEW

LONG BRIGHT RIVER

A young Philadelphia policewoman searches for her addicted sister on the streets.

The title of Moore’s (The Unseen World, 2016, etc.) fourth novel refers to “a long bright river of departed souls,” the souls of people dead from opioid overdoses in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Kensington. The book opens with a long paragraph that's just a list of names, most of whom don’t have a role in the plot, but the last two entries are key: “Our mother. Our father.” As the novel opens, narrator Mickey Fitzpatrick—a bright but emotionally damaged single mom—is responding with her partner to a call. A dead girl has turned up in an abandoned train yard frequented by junkies. Mickey is terrified that it will be her estranged sister, Kacey, whom she hasn’t seen in a while. The two were raised by their grandmother, a cold, bitter woman who never recovered from the overdose death of the girls' mother. Mickey herself is awkward and tense in all social situations; when she talks about her childhood she mentions watching the other kids from the window, trying to memorize their mannerisms so she could “steal them and use them [her]self.” She is close with no one except her 4-year-old son, Thomas, whom she barely sees because she works so much, leaving him with an unenthusiastic babysitter. Opioid abuse per se is not the focus of the action—the book centers on the search for Kacey. Obsessed with the possibility that her sister will end up dead before she can find her, Mickey breaches protocol and makes a series of impulsive decisions that get her in trouble. The pace is frustratingly slow for most of the book, then picks up with a flurry of revelations and developments toward the end, bringing characters onstage we don’t have enough time to get to know. The narrator of this atmospheric crime novel has every reason to be difficult and guarded, but the reader may find her no easier to bond with than the other characters do.

With its flat, staccato tone and mournful mood, it’s almost as if the book itself were suffering from depression.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54067-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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