A meticulous and credible military thrill ride that should be lighter on its feet.

SETAREH DOCTRINE

A team of American mercenaries tries to throttle an Iranian biological weapons program in this thriller.

Jake Woods had a long career as a Marine and an intelligence official and now serves as CEO of the Themis Cooperative, an unofficial paramilitary group that works to uphold national security. “To put it bluntly, we don’t exist,” says Jake of the shadowy organization, which is largely made up of retired military warriors, ex-Mossad agents, and an information technology guy. The group meets upon hearing of a serious threat to humanity: Iran has developed a lethal virus that it is planning to unleash on its neighbors in an attempt to establish a new Islamic empire and eliminate Israel. Themis is eager to launch its mission, but the current United States administration doesn’t like the idea, and a backhanded approach is necessary to gain approval to go ahead. The Iranians have employed Korean scientist Dae-Ho Park to develop the virus. Park doesn’t want to kill all of humanity, though, and won’t complete the project until he’s got a working vaccine. Themis operatives have only a short window to secure weaponry and travel to the Middle East to thwart one of the vilest attempts at genocide the world has ever seen. Downer’s ambitious adventure is packed with characters who have an immense amount of experience in the military and the intelligence field and have knowledge of weaponry, strategy, and international affairs that is impressive. The backstory and the introductions go slowly, though, and there is a wait for the plot to take flight. The intricate details, no matter the accuracy, can drag down the pace, but the characters are bright, unfailingly capable, and balanced in terms of experiences and personalities. The narrative flows better in the second half, but the lack of a central hero hurts the tale.

A meticulous and credible military thrill ride that should be lighter on its feet.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 307

Publisher: Old Stone Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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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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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