An involving and well-orchestrated thriller in which supernatural elements work comfortably alongside...

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EPIPHANY'S GIFT

A psychic discovers a murder when she returns to her Midwest hometown.

“Epiphany couldn’t remember a time when they weren’t there,” O’Connor (American River: Confluence, 2018, etc.) writes about her main character in her latest novel, “the voices, the visions, the patterns of colored light that flickered around the bodies of her family and friends, the ghostly figures that came and went, appearing and disappearing, there and then gone.” Epiphany Mayall works in a spiritualist community in Watoolahatchee, Florida, and now she’s returning to her parents’ house in Mt. Eden, Ohio. She first left the town 40 years ago. Her memories of the place are conflicted—her father had called her psychic gifts “the Devil’s business”—and they grow more so as the plot advances. Epiphany is contacted by her old teacher Dr. John Bernhardt about the recent theft of a William Blake drawing from a local museum, and her parents tell her that localized earthquakes have been happening quite a lot recently, the result of a new fracking operation in the vicinity. And shortly after learning this, Epiphany receives another shock. Bernhardt has died, apparently of a heart attack—but then his ghost appears to tell her it was murder most foul. With this killing, the art theft, and the background disturbance of a shadowy fracking corporation, the elements of a solid psychic murder mystery are in place. O’Connor delivers on that promise with smooth readability throughout the tale. Epiphany quickly gathers allies, including an FBI art-crimes specialist, and enemies, some predictably connected with the fracking company and others perhaps with even deeper motives. The book’s central plot is powered by Epiphany’s personality, and the author does a seamless job of incorporating the exposition of the psychic’s sleuthing into the general narration without bogging things down. Likewise, Epiphany’s various supernatural abilities are portrayed with an appealing lack of fuss and histrionics—she’s been living with her gifts so long that readers will begin to share her comfort with the spiritual world. The result is a sure-footed, very enjoyable mystery novel.

An involving and well-orchestrated thriller in which supernatural elements work comfortably alongside ripped-from-the-headlines events.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4808-7681-1

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 14, 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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