A taut suspense tale energized by a unique premise, dastardly criminals, and a resilient hero.

Terminal Justice

In Howard’s (It’s About Time, 2016, etc.) thriller, a longtime police investigator fights criminals by using hopeless cancer patients as suicide bombers.

In this book’s riveting opening chapter, a dying man fakes his way into a cocktail party for a recently exonerated criminal. He then ignites a vest full of explosives and blows himself and the entire hotel floor to smithereens. It turns out that August Bock, the CEO of freight company Worldwide Dispatch, is using desperate, penniless, terminally ill people to wreak revenge. After his company zeros in on an unjustly absolved lawbreaker, it strikes a deal with a dying patient, who must carry out a suicide-bombing mission in return for a $4 million payout. Hopeless and eager to leave a windfall for their families, the bombers are willing pawns in a “righteous war” of vigilante justice. Meanwhile, a tough, veteran Miami police detective and single father, Gabe Mitchell, and his feisty partner, Joanne Hansen, are busy fighting crime on their own turf, although Gabe’s health has seen much better days. When he’s diagnosed with a metastatic brain tumor, he falls into Bock’s cross hairs. The CEO swiftly offers him the aforementioned deadly deal. When Gabe refuses, Bock tries to blackmail him into it, which eventually leads to a breathless standoff on a yacht. The intriguing plotline elevates Howard’s sophomore crime thriller above genre expectations. The author’s talent for suspense and narrative momentum is on full display here. He recounts Gabe’s emotional journey as he comes to terms with his terminal diagnosis and his guilt over his surviving son’s welfare, and he cleverly follows it with the cop’s later crisis of conscience. The clock ticks down to Gabe’s forced act of vengeance—and the end of his life—while a few unexpected twists and turns make things even more interesting. There’s also an underlying theme of morality permeating the story; long after Howard’s exhilarating, skyscraper-set conclusion plays out, the question of the ethics of contracted retribution will linger in the readers’ minds. At more than 450 pages in length, Howard’s book could have used some pruning, but overall, this is an ambitious adventure—one that may seem preposterous to some and completely credible to others.

A taut suspense tale energized by a unique premise, dastardly criminals, and a resilient hero.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5115-0895-7

Page Count: 370

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

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


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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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