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A VERY, VERY, VERY OLD MYSTERY

A lively and learned time-travel tale.

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In this middle-grade debut novel, a young boy and several ghosts hope to clear the name of a disgraced ancestor.

Ten-year-old Jeremiah Morris lives in Manhattan with his parents; 13-year-old sister, Susanne; and their nanny, Phoebe. When summer vacation from school begins, the family flies to England to visit Papa and Nana, also known as the Earl and Countess Poppycock. While exploring the attic of the grand Poppycock estate, Jeremiah finds a trunk with a key in its lock. As he turns the key, a voice calls out, “Don’t be intrusive!” Soon, a vapor rises from the trunk, and he’s greeted by the ghost of his “nine-greats-grandmother—great said nine times,” Leila Wadsworth, who died in 1752. She relates the story of her son, Edgar, who was wrongfully hanged for a murder that someone else committed in 1744. St. Peter himself has ordered that Leila; her husband, Mortimer; and numerous other spectral members of the Wadsworth clan work to clear Edgar’s name. Leila recruits Jeremiah and Susanne and even invites the boy to travel back in time with her and Mortimer to 1744, the year the victim, Walter Johnson, lost his life. But the killer is also capable of using the Wadsworths’ ghostly status to the utmost advantage. For his tale, Foxton chases a historical mystery with the clear, logical thinking of a child. The first five chapters actually happen in New York, when Jeremiah is 7 and Papa visits. The earl spoils his grandchildren, and the author teaches his audience lots of facts, including a detailed origin story for the Statue of Liberty. The narrative’s tone captures the unintentionally wry ways children speak, as when Jeremiah says of his airplane ride: “Cabin staff serve a meal. It tastes good mostly because I am hungry.” When Foxton’s characters reach the past, he highlights the 18th century’s most noticeable traits: Nobody bathes, and servants are nonentities. And yet Clive, Leila’s servant, says of his love of learning: “I try to better myself even though I am dead.” The author delights in spinning a yarn but enjoys just as much rendering a transporting period piece.

A lively and learned time-travel tale.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-2649-2

Page Count: 238

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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