A love story enmeshed in a twisty thriller that peels back the universe to see what lies beneath.

AFTERLIFE

When two FBI agents are killed in the line of duty, they discover death isn’t at all what they imagined.

Sakey (Written in Fire, 2016, etc.) follows up his incredible Brilliance trilogy with an otherworldly stand-alone thriller about a subterranean war between gods and monsters. The book opens with a story about a young boy in a cannibalistic horror scene on a ship at sea circa 1532. Then the book cuts to the present day, where FBI Agent Claire McCoy is leading a task force hunting the sniper terrorizing Chicago. She’s also newly in love with fellow agent Will Brody. But when Brody runs down the sniper, Simon Tucks, he’s killed instantly by a bomb. For Claire, that should have been the end of Will Brody, and yet....Next, Brody awakens in an ethereal version of Chicago leached of color and deprived of technology. His new companions explain that this is the Echo, a kind of purgatory for souls killed suddenly, violently. Unfortunately, this fate also falls upon Claire when Simon Tucks kills her in a suicide bombing, reuniting them even in death. From here, Sakey spins out an ambitious mythology that mixes horror, police procedural, and tense action with big questions about the nature of existence. In this new world, Eaters kill other people all over again to gain their life force. There is also a race of Elders, most notably our cannibal Edmund, who have lived hundreds of years by torturing the living. “All the random, inexplicable brutalities,” Sakey writes. “The school shooters and psychotic Uber drivers. The mothers who drowned their children. The serial killers with their duct tape and their butcher knives. The maniacs who fired round after round into crowded nightclubs, pausing only to reload. The atrocities for which there was no answer.” It’s a disturbing book born in dark times but one in which Sakey employs all his storytelling gifts to craft a noodle-bender of the first order.

A love story enmeshed in a twisty thriller that peels back the universe to see what lies beneath.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4847-0

Page Count: 318

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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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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