Plentiful suspense and an indelible protagonist foster a gratifying medical tale.


In this debut thriller and series opener, a doctor tries to keep her father’s miracle-drug formula away from a fiendish company marketing a vaccine that’s outright lethal.

Dr. Martina Strömstedt Edgren loses both parents in a car accident that her 5-year-old son, Joachim, mercifully survives. Her father, Peter, had founded Althonat in New York; the medical research company manufactures alternative natural boosters. Martina, who oversaw the opening of Althonat’s Stockholm branch where she’s CEO, is shaken by Dr. Steven Rangor, an American who suddenly appears at her parents’ funeral. Claiming to have worked for Peter, Rangor surprisingly knows of his confidential project, a new natural booster. Martina later learns Rangor may have ties to Life-Vaccine, which Citaraph Pharmaceuticals is selling as a life-prolonging drug. Not only is Life-Vaccine toxic, it also contains portions of Rensblad, Peter’s wonder drug. Sinister individuals, collectively called the Group, are conducting illegal experiments on people and somehow have half the Rensblad formula—and want the other half. Martina is soon an obstacle: she noses around the Group’s clinic where a neighbor’s son is likely held and launches a cell antidote to counteract Life-Vaccine. Everyone is in danger of the deadly drug, but the Group may first target Martina. Justine’s thriller boasts a strong female protagonist who’s both intelligent and resolute. Frequent perspectives from the villains provide an ever present menace, even if accompanying details are occasionally excessive. One particularly irate bad guy, for example, “breathed fire through his dragon nostrils.” But there are ample shocks, from the Group’s mole to the genuine and appalling purpose of Life-Vaccine. Engrossing melodrama is likewise interspersed throughout: Martina seems torn between her ex-husband (and Joachim’s dad), Thomas, and her current lover (and employee), Dr. Jonas Eneroth. Relationship turmoil does unfortunately monopolize the final act when a woman’s surprise appearance threatens Martina and Jonas’ romance. Nevertheless, a cliffhanger ensures that readers will keep their eyes out for the sequel.

Plentiful suspense and an indelible protagonist foster a gratifying medical tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4918-0143-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2018

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


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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