An enjoyable, well-written and twisty thriller with gruesome aspects balanced by warmth, believable relationships and a...

THE SHADOW MAN

A Savannah doctor’s life turns upside down when people suspect him of serial murder in this thriller tinged with the supernatural.

Surgeon Malcolm King is a good man living a good life in this fast-paced and suspenseful first novel by Murphy, a gastroenterologist and columnist for the Savannah Morning News. Malcolm has a loving family, a faithful golden retriever and a beautiful house. So when people link him to a series of gruesome murders, he’s desperate to discover the truth—at times even wondering if his sanity is slipping and he himself might be the killer. To avoid capture, Malcolm goes on the run, aided by a mysterious Thin Man who may or may not be trustworthy. As horrific murders of people close to him continue, Malcolm fights to protect his family and stop the killer. His good-guy hero faces an impossible situation full of spooky, atmospheric details reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart’s plight in a Hitchcock movie, and the thriller aspect works especially well since the book grounds it in ordinary happiness. Malcolm’s wife and daughter, even his dog, are fully realized, not pawns in a horror show; the Savannah setting is lushly detailed; and it’s easy to see what Malcolm has to lose. His work also comes across as both realistic—one day ranges from “ruptured appendices and walled-off diverticular abscesses to a Billroth II gastric resection”—and horribly similar to the killer’s grisly dissections. Flashes of humor help to ease the tension, and the camaraderie between Malcolm and other characters is a reminder that human connections can stand against evil. The sturdy plot structure includes red herrings, family secrets and a new direction just when it looks like it’s all over. Two clichés, each a bit of a groaner, mar the book somewhat: a noble, spiritual Native American and a medical condition often unfairly linked to villainy. The supernatural elements add little to the plot and can seem a bit pat, but they don’t get in the way of a satisfying finish.

An enjoyable, well-written and twisty thriller with gruesome aspects balanced by warmth, believable relationships and a likable hero.

Pub Date: July 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1938296031

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Langdon Street Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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