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THE STRANGER INSIDE

Unconvincing.

A squatter with an axe to grind throws one woman’s life into a tailspin.

Not many folks would be thrilled to come home after a four-day work retreat to find their locks changed and some creepy guy living in their house, and Kimber Hannon certainly isn't when it happens to her. The strangely familiar man calls himself Lance Wilson and claims that Kimber herself rented the house to him for six months. When she calls the police, she's horrified that they don’t kick the guy out even after she presents her driver’s license with the address on it and her neighbor, the elderly, very nosy Jenny, confirms that she lives there. So, she calls the only person she can think of who might help her: her lawyer ex-boyfriend, Gabriel, whom she did not leave on good terms. Rather improbably, the police claim that Wilson has “established residence” and they can’t kick him out unless they can prove fraud. Kimber, understandably, loses it and attacks Wilson, and during the scuffle he says “I was there. I saw what you did," so softly that only she can hear. Kimber goes to stay with friend Diana and her husband, Kyle (with whom Kimber has history), and, as her life unravels, she tries to figure out why, and how, this creeper has taken over her home. The truth leads all the way back to Kimber’s childhood and the death of her sister, Michelle, when they were kids. Kimber is no saint, but although she’s genuinely trying to be a better person, the carefully woven threads of her life are unraveling at an alarming pace. Readers may not exactly root for Kimber, but it’s hard not to sympathize with the helplessness and rage she feels at the general unfairness of her home and life being taken over by a smug, smarmy intruder. Benedict also provides a window into Kimber’s combative relationship with her sister and the tragic events leading up to Michelle’s death. Benedict is an able writer, but readers will likely guess who Kimber’s unwanted house guest is quickly, and the big reveals (there are a few) and final confrontation, orchestrated to be shocking, merely expose the frayed ends of this melodramatic tale.

Unconvincing.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-44492-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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