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THE AMERICAN MISSION

This is first-rate fiction. Let’s hope Palmer has a sequel in the works.

A captivating debut thriller by a longtime foreign service officer explores the complicated politics of the Congo.

“Death came on horseback,” the novel begins. Idealistic diplomat Alex Baines loses his security clearance over a disaster in Darfur, and he must decide between a civilian career and years of stamping visas for the State Department. Then a friend offers him a chance to restore his reputation, and Baines finds himself deep in the Congo. Nearly everyone wants to exploit that country’s vast mineral riches, not least Consolidated Mining. Residents of Busu-Mouli already have a modest mine along the Congo River, but Consolidated wants to take over and strip the mountain to rubble. The company has important political support, and Baines stands with Busu-Mouli’s Chief Tsiolo and his daughter, Marie, to oppose the area’s rape. An exciting story unfolds that’s filled with intrigue, murder and even romance. Will the country’s people gain from its riches, or will they have to watch helplessly while foreigners continue to despoil it as they have for a century? “We do have ways of exercising our rights in eastern Congo,” says one Consolidated company man, and those ways include guns. Palmer uses his deep knowledge of Africa and diplomacy to construct a multilayered tale about the search for peace and justice in a country that has seen little of either since Belgium’s King Leopold made it his private preserve in the 1880s. Both foreigners and Congolese are villains and heroes here, though the real power still lies outside the country. With their intelligence and humanity, Alex and Marie are easy characters to root for—but even the bad guys are well-drawn and believable.

This is first-rate fiction. Let’s hope Palmer has a sequel in the works.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16570-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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