As with all of Greaney’s work, this is a fun read. If only all our wars were fiction.

RED METAL

Russia launches war in Europe and Africa in this military thriller reminiscent of the late Tom Clancy.

A small group of Chinese communist special forces sneaks into Taiwan to assassinate a politician and provoke a war. This attracts intense U.S. attention—perfect timing for Russia to launch Operation Red Metal and “retain its proper place in the world.” The Russians' ultimate goal is to keep control of a rare-earth mine in Kenya, for which they need to wield “a scalpel through the heart of Europe” to destroy AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command headquartered in Germany. They kill Western satellites to take out GPS and make Europe deaf, mute, and blind. On Christmas Day, Russian trains disguised as civilian transport deliver offensive forces into Europe, unloading troops and tanks. They also attack in Kenya, where battles rage. NATO hasn’t detected this military buildup and is taken completely by surprise. A Russian general opines that the U.S. can’t fight a conventional force anymore, embroiled as it’s been in Afghanistan. Ha! Tell it to the Marines, like Lt. Col. Dan Connolly, who knows “this world’s a damn dangerous place” and figures out what the enemy is up to. The war lasts about a week, plenty of time for intense battle scenes and the distinct possibility of tactical nukes. Having produced well over 600 pages, Greaney and Rawlings, his Marine co-author, had a bout of logorrhea, but the collaboration has yielded plenty of realism. There are some good lines, as when an A-10 pilot strafes the ground while screaming “Die, Commie, die!” (He apparently didn’t get the memo about the USSR.) But the best line: “And as long as we get to pop a bunch of those Russkies, death ain’t but a thing.” Readers will be humming "The Marines’ Hymn” after finishing this paean to the U.S. Marines. Hoorah!

As with all of Greaney’s work, this is a fun read. If only all our wars were fiction.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49041-4

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

HOUR GAME

A serial killer with a sense of history is the baddie in this latest from Baldacci, one of the reigning kings of potboilers (Split Second, 2003, etc.).

He kills, he leaves clues, he flatters through imitation: Son of Sam, the San Francisco Zodiac killer, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gracy, and so on down a sanguinary list of accredited members of the Monsters’ Hall of Fame. Suddenly, the landscape of poor little Wrightsburg, Virginia, is littered with corpses, and ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have their hands full. That’s because bewildered, beleaguered Chief of Police Todd Williams has turned to the newly minted private investigating firm of King and Maxwell for desperately needed (unofficial) help. Even these ratiocinative wizards, however, admit to puzzlement. “But I'm not getting this,” says Michelle. “Why commit murders in similar styles to past killers as a copycat would and then write letters making it clear you’re not them?” Excellent question, and it goes pretty much unanswered. Never mind—enter the battling Battles, a family with the requisite number of sins and secrets to qualify fully as hot southern Gothic and to prop up a plot in need. Bobby Battles, the patriarch, is bedridden, but Remmy, his wife, is one lively mischief-making steel magnolia. She’s brought breaking-and-entering charges against decent local handyman Junior Deaver, who as a result languishes in the county jail. Convinced of his innocence, Junior’s lawyer hires King & Maxwell to sniff around for exculpatory evidence. Well, will the two plot streams flow together? You betcha. Will the copycat-serial-killer at one point decide that King and Maxwell are just too clever to live? Inevitably. And when at last that CCSK’s identity is revealed and his crimes explained (talkily and tediously), will readers be satisfied? Only the charitable among them.

Lame but, like its predecessors, bound for bestsellerdom.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2004

ISBN: 0-446-53108-1

Page Count: 440

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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