An often engaging novel with a perceptive protagonist but uneven characterization.

SERPENT LOOP

After witnessing a stabbing at a carnival, a man goes to great lengths to protect his sister, who knew the victim, in this thriller sequel.

Twenty-six-year-old Zane Clearwater isn’t having an easy time raising his 15-year-old sister, Lettie. He works a maintenance job at the zoo as well as a summer job at the carnival to be able to afford the rent for their two-bedroom apartment. A fight breaks out between two inebriated men at the carnival, resulting in one of them getting stabbed; the perpetrator flees, and as the victim lies bleeding, he calls out Lettie’s name. She tries to comfort him, but he dies in an ambulance. Later, when Zane asks his sister about the dead man, it’s clear that she’s hiding something that truly scares her. When the killer pays a visit to their home, Zane understands that his sibling could be the next to die. He pulls her from her class at school and takes her to their grandmother’s place, but before long, the girl goes missing, and Zane must work together with Lettie’s boyfriend, Angel, to find her and bring her home. Lipinski, who wrote Bloodlines(2015), returns with a gripping and well-paced follow-up. The novel offers action from the get-go and then paints a vivid picture of the relationship between Zane and his sister. He’s clearly shown to be traumatized by his past, in which his father killed his mother, but he cares deeply for his similarly scarred sibling and does everything he can to provide for her; he lacks a support system but does his best with what he’s given. But although his perspective is clear, readers may wish that the novel offered more of Lettie’s side of the story and provided more insight into the siblings’ relationship. Indeed, readers only get glimpses of Lettie’s personality, which keeps her from truly coming alive on the page.

An often engaging novel with a perceptive protagonist but uneven characterization.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9964676-8-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Majestic Content Los Angeles

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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