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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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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