A worthwhile read for those interested in finding out how a man with a mind full of bad memories can serve both God and man...

RETURN TO SENDER

A novel about a rough-and-tumble priest and his quest for justice, from debut author Halleck.

Father Theo Riley isn’t your average priest. Having survived a difficult childhood, time as a boxing champion and the Korean War, he’s tough inside and out. That’s not to say he’s untroubled. In the small coastal town of Manzanita, Oregon, he’s burdened by memories of war, a lost love and the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church, taking to regular bouts of drinking and occasional periods of despair—“I’m good for nothing but bein’ a punchin’ bag.” Nevertheless, though his parish is small, he does all he can for the community. For instance, after confronting a man guilty of beating his family, Theo is physically beaten himself; he gets the man sentenced to jail but hardly realizes the difficulty he is sowing. In jail, the man strikes up a friendship with a seedy, pseudo-religious figure named Genghis. After taking the man under his wing, Genghis hatches a plot that, he imagines, will be too much for Theo to handle. Can Theo stop such a diabolical figure while confronting the many demons of his own? While creating a truly burdened figure, the novel is heavy on the many troubles in Theo’s past, not the least of which involves trying to save orphans in Korea: “The faces of the orphans passed through me again; an eternal, far-reaching shadow.” Likewise, Genghis’ despicable past proves to be one of morbid interest. Many characters in between, however, often fall to stereotypes. From trusty quarterback-turned-sheriff Bud to the all-wise Native American Solomon (“Pictures of [Solomon] in his headdress and suede clothing were proud and striking—it was another world”), the supporting characters can be unimaginative. Readers intrigued by a rugged Oregon town and its warrior priest may not mind as Theo confronts his many enemies and confides in his many friends.

A worthwhile read for those interested in finding out how a man with a mind full of bad memories can serve both God and man in his quest for redemption.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1620154397

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Booktrope Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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