Kubica is a helluva storyteller, and while this doesn't quite equal her best efforts, it’s still pretty darn good.

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT

When Jessie Sloane's mother, Eden, dies of cancer, Jessie is left rudderless. Then she discovers she might not be the person she thought she was.

Jessie never knew her father, and she can’t bear to live in the house that she shared with Eden, so she puts it on the market. When she applies to community college, she gets a call with the alarming news that a death certificate was filed 17 years ago with her name and social security number on it. She'll need to get a copy of her social security card, but without a birth certificate or driver’s license—she doesn’t drive—it’s nearly impossible, and when a clerk takes pity on her and does a search, no records are found. It’s a vicious circle, and it hampers her ability to find an apartment, although she does eventually find a place in a small carriage house she rents from reclusive widow Ms. Geissler. Unfortunately, in addition to the question of her identity, she’s got a more pressing problem: Jessie has insomnia, and as the days pass and she doesn’t sleep, she begins to hear and see things, eventually wondering how long she can go without sleep before it kills her. Woven with Jessie’s first-person narrative is Eden’s tale, beginning 20 years ago in 1996 when she’s only 28. She and her husband, Aaron, are crazy in love and desperately hope for a child, but as time passes and they don’t conceive, they begin trying more aggressive, and more expensive, methods. Eden’s obsession builds to a fever pitch, threatening to tear her and Aaron apart. Jessie’s story, an effective study of grief, nightmarishly builds to its own fever pitch, and Kubica peppers her narrative with creepy, surreal touches that will have readers questioning reality right along with Jessie. Eden’s story, on the other hand, poignantly examines what it’s like to want a child so badly that you’ll do anything to have one. Can Jessie find out who she really is before it’s too late? It all leads to a denouement that isn't very surprising, but a lesser writer might not have been able to pull off the final twist.

Kubica is a helluva storyteller, and while this doesn't quite equal her best efforts, it’s still pretty darn good.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7783-3078-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Park Row Books

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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