THE TROOP

Readers may wish to tackle this heart-pounding novel in highly populated, well-lit areas—snacks optional.

Some thrillers produce shivers, others trigger goose bumps; Cutter’s graphic offering will have readers jumping out of their skins.

Scoutmaster Dr. Tim Riggs takes his troop for their annual camping trip to Falstaff Island, an uninhabited area not far from their home on Prince Edward Island. The five 14-year-old boys who comprise Troop 52 are a diverse group: popular school jock, Kent, whose father is the chief of police; best friends Ephraim and Max, one the son of a petty thief who’s serving time in prison and the other the son of the coroner who also serves as the local taxidermist; Shelley, an odd loner with a creepy proclivity for animal torture and touching girls’ hair; and Newton, the overweight nerdy kid who’s the butt of the other boys’ jokes. When a skeletal, voracious, obviously ill man shows up on the island the first night of their trip, Tim’s efforts to assist him unleash a series of events which the author describes in gruesome, deliciously gory detail. Tom Padgett is the subject of a scientific test gone horribly wrong, or so it seems, and soon, the Scouts face a nightmare that worms its way into the group and wreaks every kind of havoc imaginable. With no way to leave the island (the boat Tom arrived on is disabled, and the troop was dropped off by a different boat), the boys fight to survive. Cutter’s narrative of unfolding events on the island is supplemented with well-placed interviews, pages from diaries, and magazine and newspaper articles, which provide answers to the reader in bits and pieces—but perhaps more importantly, it also delivers much-needed respites from the intense narrative as the boys battle for their lives on the island. Cutter (who created this work under a pseudonym) packs a powerful punch by plunging readers into gut-wrenching, explicit imagery that’s not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.  

Readers may wish to tackle this heart-pounding novel in highly populated, well-lit areas—snacks optional.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1771-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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

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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