A somewhat unwieldy novel that nonetheless delivers fast-paced, dramatic action and engaging, lively characters.

REVENANT RISING

BOOK 1 OF THE SECOND CHANCES TRILOGY

Sparks fly when a rock star teams up with a brilliant attorney in this sprawling tale of sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll—and revenge.

It’s 1987, and British musician Colin Elliot has just re-emerged on the music scene, two years after a devastating car accident that killed Aurora, his heroin-addict wife, and left him close to death. Now, Colin’s determined to reignite his dormant career, but on his own terms. To that end, he enlists Laurel Chandler, a successful and beautiful attorney, as his official biographer, with the intent of publicly clearing the air regarding both the accident and his notorious late wife. Colin and Laurel’s relationship starts out icy, but before long they bond over similarities in their troubled pasts. The struggle to come to terms with a past that won’t stay buried is a recurrent theme in the book. It’s most clearly embodied by Hoop Jakeway, Aurora's unrequited high school suitor, who blames Colin for Aurora's untimely demise—he’s intent on avenging her death, no matter what it takes. The book opens with a gripping account of the fateful high-speed car chase across Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula, and then leaps forward two years to the sleazy drug dealers, scheming lawyers, put-upon managers and vulturelike paparazzi who inhabit Colin’s world. Mayle capably evokes the milieu of the ’80s-era rock star, though the book suffers from an overabundance of minor characters and some heavy-handed exposition. However, music fans will appreciate the references to classic pop songs sprinkled throughout the novel, while Hoop, with his misguided quest for vengeance, proves himself to be a complicated, fully realized character. But the novel falters in portraying the romance between Colin and Laurel, which never quite comes to life. Finally, a less-than-satisfying conclusion resolves one of the book’s main conflicts but leaves the other to be sorted in the next volume of the series.

A somewhat unwieldy novel that nonetheless delivers fast-paced, dramatic action and engaging, lively characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463557331

Page Count: 504

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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