Combining witty if occasionally silly wordplay, dark adult themes, and surprisingly sharp dialogue, Giesser creates a...


In 1815, a 1,250-pound wheel of cheese goes missing. A patent office clerk and his fiancee must recover it but not before there is a murder, a scandal in a whorehouse, and an unusually thoughtful nighttime interlude with a feline.

Mr. Cassius Lightner, a patent clerk, is not whom he at first appears to be. Neither is his whip-smart fiancee, Amanda, who chafes at the gendered reality of her era but refuses to simply bow down to male ego. The narrative of how Cassius and Amanda are first brought in to look for the cheese is lively from the start. Cassius, in a flash-forward, finds himself chained to the cheese and wondering in a quasi-lucid way about how history shall record his wild journey. The book eventually settles into a he said/she said POV structure in which one chapter is written from the point of view of Amanda, and the next is written from the POV of Cassius. With punchy wit and clever turns of phrase, Giesser fills his leads with modern vivacity and tenacity, which makes the unfurling of the mystery of the missing cheese a pleasure to witness. “Killing does have a finality about it,” says Cassius. “Brackenridge just nodded. Father always said sex was funnier than death, but you work with the opening you have.” In this sense, the book’s wordplay is reminiscent of the works of P.G. Wodehouse, although Giesser meanders into far darker and more salacious territory. The story of Anne, a prostitute frequented by Cassius, is rendered with surprising reality and nuance. The black humor of the book, combined with its nonstop pithiness and overt cleverness, makes it an enjoyable, rapid-fire read. The balance of the inherently ridiculous—in this case, the missing cheese—and the macabre, including a murder, is balanced admirably well. Even though the book splits its time between the two leads, the overall tone and thrust of the work remains surprisingly even. As a work of darkly comic historical fiction, it’s a resounding success.

Combining witty if occasionally silly wordplay, dark adult themes, and surprisingly sharp dialogue, Giesser creates a modern-day comic novel about a series of 19th-century misadventures.

Pub Date: April 24, 2015


Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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