An engaging courtroom tale, thanks in large part to its zealous, appealing protagonist.


A young attorney with a personal vendetta goes after a trio of pharmaceutical companies he blames for the opioid epidemic in this legal thriller.

Locals in Jake Rutledge’s hometown of Oakley, West Virginia, call the city Zombieland due to the high number of opioid addicts. After Jake loses his fraternal twin brother, Blake, to an opioid overdose, he wants justice. He plans to file a lawsuit against the three biggest pharmaceutical companies. He believes they were deceitful when claiming opioids are nonaddictive, which ultimately led to Blake’s death and those of thousands more. Jake wisely gets help from two more experienced lawyers, Paul Vogel in West Virginia and Nick “Deke” Deketomis in Florida. As their civil action progresses, Jake independently offers his legal assistance to his high school crush, Anna Fowler. The city is trying to condemn her family’s business, but the fact that her father received no notices is suspicious. Jake’s stepping in on the Fowlers’ behalf may threaten someone’s well-established shady dealings, which, along with the legal battle against “the Big Three,” stirs up even more trouble. Paul and Deke are understandably worried when Jake subsequently disappears, and a drug dealer’s assertion that the missing attorney is a user is blatant character assassination. Though this is the third appearance for Deke in Papantonio’s (Law and Vengeance, 2017, etc.) series, readers may relate more to the modest Jake. While Deke flies in a private jet, his younger counterpart declines coffee “to avoid a dry-cleaning expense.” Jake is also whip-smart and stoical; during separate conversations with a condescending lawyer and a crass sheriff’s deputy, he remains unruffled. The few scenes inside a courtroom aptly display (mostly) Deke’s legal skills as well as the story’s swiftly executed examinations, cross-examinations, and arguments. Unfortunately, there is little tension, as it’s not difficult to see whom the judges favor. They are “clearly unimpressed” by the defense attorneys, with the immensely unlikable Nathan Ailes at the head. But this does preface an ending that’s both unexpected and realistic.

An engaging courtroom tale, thanks in large part to its zealous, appealing protagonist.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-939116-46-8

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Waterside Productions

Review Posted Online: April 16, 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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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...


In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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