An ordinary murder mystery energized by extraordinary, impassioned characters.

BLOODLINES

In Lipinski’s debut thriller, a young man digs into his late mother’s buried history, but he may have been better off not learning the family secret.

Zane Clearwater, 26, and little sis, Lettie, were lucky they weren’t at their trailer the night their mother, Sherri, died in a fire. Zane is dismayed that he can’t remember that night (he was drunk), but an anonymous text is even more unsettling. “Sherri Clearwater doesn’t exist,” it says, directing him to a story from 30 years ago about the murder of two teens and the prime but ultimately exonerated suspect, ominously named Jeremiah Doom. Zane and Lettie surmise that not onlywasSherri actually Jeremiah’s then-girlfriend, Lily, but Jeremiah is Zane’s father, who Sherri said had died before Zane was born. Father meets son, but there’s trouble ahead for Zane: Jeremiah may be running a meth lab, and cops soon believe Zane killed his mother in addition to another victim or two. Lipinski’s novel begins as a mystery but is less concerned with the siblings’ amateur investigation than with a slow buildup of anxiety and distrust. Zane, for starters, can’t even eliminate himself as the arsonist, and he’s terrified that he may have caused Sherri’s death. And despite Jeremiah’s dubiousness—there’s something off about him carrying a “thick roll of bills”—readers are never completely sure he’s guilty of murder or worse. The same is true for many of the people Zane and Lettie encounter, including Cap, a bar owner who had an affair with Sherri, and Jeremiah’s other sons, Clyde and Link. Delving into Sherri’s past stirs up even more murder, blackmail, and kidnappings. Romance for Zane is, fittingly, murky: he loves dress designer Emmaline, but she doesn’t seem to reciprocate, as she’s more invested in securing her spot on a TV reality show than helping or sympathizing with Zane. Lettie is a merciful bright light in the story; the sibs’ bond is unbreakable, most tellingly expressed when Zane, worried about caring for her, dreams that the two are scouring a trash can for food. By the end, readers will be hooked on the brother-sister team and assorted shady characters to the point that they likely won’t mind the few unanswered questions.

An ordinary murder mystery energized by extraordinary, impassioned characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9964676-1-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Majestic Content Los Angeles

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2015

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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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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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