Terrific storytelling that won’t win Robotham many friends in the Lone Star State.

LIFE OR DEATH

Australian novelist Robotham travels to Texas for this prison-break tale with a twist.

Audie Palmer, who admitted his involvement in the infamous Dreyfus County, Texas, armored security truck robbery, escaped from prison with only one day remaining on his sentence. Audie pleaded guilty to helping steal $7 million—money that’s never been recovered. But why did he disappear the day before his parole was to begin? That’s the question on the minds of everyone, from diminutive FBI Special Agent Desiree Furness to his best prison buddy, Moss. Soon after Audie runs, everyone involved in his case, from the former prosecutor to a deputy who is now the sheriff, is pulling out the stops to find him, and it’s obvious they'd prefer him dead rather than alive. Robotham generously shares information about the villains with readers, so there’s little suspense there. However, the back story, skillfully interwoven with the search for Audie, provides plenty of edge-of-the-seat excitement, forcing readers to frantically turn the pages to find out how all these different strands intersect. Robotham’s skill as a writer remains undeniable: He offers memorable characters caught up in an irresistible story. But the Aussie writer’s choice of Texas as his setting is bound to ruffle some feathers since he portrays the state as uniformly and relentlessly corrupt, its citizens as the dregs of society. “Texas only executes people on death row, not when they’re brain-dead because it might mean culling most of their politicians,” reads one passage. And while the writing is top-notch, albeit inflammatory in places, the finished product is also puzzling in that the novelist and his editorial team populated the book with many British expressions foreign to the setting, from calling a woman’s bangs a “fringe” to terming a flophouse a “doss house” to having a very Southern character refer to lines in a bank as “queues.”

Terrific storytelling that won’t win Robotham many friends in the Lone Star State.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-25205-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 40

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more