A page-turning sprint with the potential for a series of thrillers starring the nautical hero.

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BAYTOWN SALVAGE

A struggling captain of a salvage tug and his crew find plenty of trouble on a scorching vessel.

Wheaton (Wages of Sin, 2017, etc.) has lately been whipping up a storm of thrillers. This time, he sets his sights on the pill-popping captain of the salvage tug Yemanjá, Wyatt Stoke, and his ragtag band of misfits—first mate Jake Delahoussaye, an aging alcoholic; engineer Chuy Perez, a former gang member and three-time felon; and Party Mpanbani, a tall, experienced salvager from South Africa without a green card. Wyatt has already washed out of the Navy, been dropped as a long-haul trucker after a random drug test, and lost his job with a power company in Louisiana. Then a barely remembered uncle leaves him his salvage tug and a “crumbling old swamp shack” on the wrong side of Baytown, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico. If only Wyatt could make some money out of the small, underfunded company that must compete with the big guys. When a container ship is reported burning and unanchored, drifting toward the entrance to Buffalo Bayou, and nobody seems to be racing to stake the salvage claim, Wyatt sees his chance—board the vessel and turn on the sprinkler system to keep the craft from sinking. Difficult, dangerous, and potentially lucrative. But when he and Jake finally reach the engine room, they discover the bodies of two men who had been tied up and shot; they are now involved in something far larger and more sinister than a salvage operation. This is a plot-driven narrative filled with a broad assortment of menacing players, from bayou swamp rats to a beautiful Russian oligarch. Despite the minimum attention paid to character development, Wyatt and his cohorts come off as a likable, loyal makeshift family that readers can root for. Occasional editing blips are intrusive (for example, “There were ten times as men law enforcement officials”), but overall the pace never slackens. Wheaton includes enough details about the mechanics of diving and the legalities of salvaging to create a realistic background for this over-the-top adventure.

A page-turning sprint with the potential for a series of thrillers starring the nautical hero.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2017

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

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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