An often diverting tale that bubbles with suspense.

ABANDON HOPE

A CUTTERS NOTCH NOVEL

In DeCamp’s debut middle-grade fantasy thriller, two small-town boys searching for their abducted friend get a helping hand from beings from another dimension.

In the quiet Indiana town of Cutters Notch, 12-year-olds Josh Gillis and Danny Flannery are best friends with a slightly older teenage tomboy, Hope Spencer. The trio spends a September day playing basketball, oblivious that they’re being closely watched. After they go their separate ways, only Josh and Danny make it home. Hope’s frantic mother, Maggie Spencer, gets in touch with the cops, starting with her state-trooper neighbor, Rick Anders, and everyone assumes the worst when they find Hope’s abandoned phone and basketball. Maggie’s worried that her abusive ex-husband is responsible for Hope’s disappearance even though he’s supposed to be in jail. Josh and Danny, meanwhile, suspect creepy old neighbor Willie Robbins to be the kidnapper. Cops and parents impede the boys’ attempts to take part in the search, but the two get assistance from an unlikely source: three beings named Gavin, Gronek, and Smakal from the Arboreal Realm. They invite Josh and Danny to travel into their dimension (via something called “the shimmer”) so that they’ll have the opportunity to rescue Hope from someone—or something—monstrous. DeCamp’s novel centers on the story’s thriller qualities in scenes of Hope in captivity, looking for a means of escape. The otherworldly aspects of the tale, meanwhile, are less distinctive; Gavin and his two companions, for example, remain mysterious, as many questions about their back story and home realm remain unanswered at the end of the story. The tension is high throughout, though, thanks to menacing and relentless villains; it’s also sprinkled with forbidding, dark-fantasy prose: “all was now silent in the woods”; “The bright orb had followed its course into the western sky.” The story will surely appeal to younger readers (the instances of violence are never over-the-top), and it manages quite a few surprises, such as the revelation of the abductors’ twisted plan. The ending hints at more in store for the people of Cutters Notch.

An often diverting tale that bubbles with suspense.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2017

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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