A big, messy, ambitious, both brilliant and embarrassing, partly autobiographical novel by the author of The Godfather—and fans of that blockbuster will be thrilled with only about half of it. Puzo probably writes about money better than anyone since Balzac, and, in one of the most mesmerizing first chapters in recent fiction, he introduces us to three "degenerate gamblers" one night in Las Vegas circa 1959: casino stoolie Cully, boyishly intense Merlyn, and middle-aged runaway Jordan, who wins half a million this one night at the tables and then shoots himself. Though Jordan's image and the irony of his big win haunts the whole book, the focus then shifts to—and stays with—writer Merlyn, whose interest as a hero-narrator decreases as his fortunes rise. Living in the Bronx with wife and kids, supporting them and his serious writing efforts with a civilian job in the Army Reserves, Merlyn is immensely appealing—whether compulsively disappearing for a gambling binge in Vegas or succumbing to the temptation of bribes from would-be Reservists: the money piles up ("I had become the Tiffany's of bribe-takers"), and Merlyn must turn to Cully (now on the rise in Vegas casino management)—who helps him launder the cash and saves him from jail when the bribe scandal is exposed. But when Merlyn starts to climb in the literary world and then scores with a whopping best-seller, the book loses its tension and drifts into cliches—vigorously, often hilariously fleshed out—but cliches nonetheless. There's the kitchen-sink portrait of famous writer Osano, who's a brawling, wenching, dying composite of Mailer and a half-dozen others, mouthing such Hemingwayisms as "Cunt is the only thing worth living for. Everything else is a fake. . . ." And, worse, there's Merlyn vs. Hollywood—those ruthless hacks are raping his book—and Merlyn & His Hollywood Mistress; previously faithful to wife Val (self-righteously so), Merlyn falls for actress Janelle—liberated, smart, funny, and bisexual ("Sure she fucked other guys and women too, but what the hell, nobody's perfect"). Puzo obviously wants to say Big Things about survival (fools die), art vs. money, love vs. sex, and (most successfully, as in Godfather) betrayal vs. loyalty; and a lot of readers will feel that loquacious Merlyn, supposedly so modest, is awfully full of himself. But whenever the money is changing hands—which is pretty often—Fools Die does indeed live, breathe, and squirm with the "magic" of writing that Merlyn (he was an orphan and named himself) keeps bragging about.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0451160193

Page Count: 531

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1978

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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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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