An evocative and perfectly readable thriller, but genre fans will find few surprises within.

THE LAST HOUSE GUEST

A year after her best friend’s supposed suicide, a young woman must clear her name when new evidence is uncovered.

The Lomans own much of Littleport, Maine, a fact that hasn’t changed much since their only daughter’s death a year ago. In the summer of 2017, on the night of the annual Plus-One party, aimed at summer people who've stayed a week longer than the traditional Labor Day end-of-season, golden girl Sadie Loman apparently threw herself off a cliff into the churning sea, but to those who knew her, especially her closest friend, Avery Greer, she seemed to have everything to live for. Year-round Littleport resident Avery was adrift after her parents’ deaths when she was a teen, but when she met the mesmerizing Sadie, a summer person, her life took on new meaning. Sadie and Avery became so close, it was sometimes hard to tell where one ended and the other began. After Avery’s grandmother died, Avery was alone, and the ridiculously wealthy Lomans seemed to welcome her into the family, even giving her a job as property manager for their coastal rentals and a place to live in their guesthouse. But everything fell apart after Sadie died. When Avery finds Sadie’s phone hidden in the rental cottage where last year’s Plus-One party was held, she turns it in to the police—after doing a bit of snooping. Additionally, someone’s been breaking into the rentals, and Sadie’s brooding older brother, Parker, is acting strangely. Sadie’s death is looking less and less like a suicide, and Avery is at the top of the suspect list. The Loman family’s lies are rising to the surface, but can Avery keep her head above water? The narrative, which flips between 2017 and 2018, grows increasingly tense as Avery, who is a surprisingly reliable narrator, gets closer to the truth, but while Miranda (The Perfect Stranger, 2017, etc.) builds some creepy atmosphere in the lead-up, the final revelations are more sad than shocking. Most compelling are the class tensions between Littleport’s year-round residents and the seasonal, moneyed tourists as well as the elusive nature of memory and the intricacies of friendship.

An evocative and perfectly readable thriller, but genre fans will find few surprises within.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6537-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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