Brisk, terse, and diverting.

THE BREAKER

Thwarting what seems like a run-of-the-mill holdup thrusts an ex-Marine into an international cybercrime plot.

What seems simple and predictable turns complex and surprising in this thriller, the sixth in the Peter Ash series. The swiftly paced, action-dominated plot rushes headlong from its outset. Freelance journalist June Cassidy alerts series protagonist Ash to a bearded and “weird-looking dude” as she, Ash, and his sidekick, Lewis, meet for an outdoor coffee near the Milwaukee Public Market on a sunny October afternoon. The bearded man of interest holds up another man with an assault rifle and Ash tries to intervene. Ash momentarily throws the gunman off with two well-tossed honeycrisps, but not before the gunman takes a phone from his quarry and then escapes on an electric bike, leaving behind a pair of shades. “You don’t steal a phone with an AK-74,” Ash says, his curiosity about the incident compelling him to find out what the attacker was up to. Ash works with handicaps. An ex-Marine veteran of the Iraq War, he suffers from PTSD. Worse, the FBI wants him for the murder of a government employee Ash didn’t commit, so the shaggy-haired Ash must work out of police sight. Ash doesn’t work alone. Cassidy joins him, bringing keen investigative reportorial skills to the pursuit that do as much to solve the case as Ash and Lewis do with their athletics—this turns out not to be the macho-male dominated thriller it first seems to be. When the house Ash and Cassidy share is burgled, the sunglasses from the crime scene go missing. Then Cassidy is menaced by a thug in a van. To find out what they’ve stumbled on, they traverse the city, which Petrie describes sharply. The pair grab at straws—sharply sketched characters with seemingly tangential connections to the case—until a source offers a major clue: The holdup near the market may be connected to a Russian hacking attempt.

Brisk, terse, and diverting.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-53547-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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

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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This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

THE SCORPION'S TAIL

Past and present collide on a trail of death in the second in the authors’ Nora Kelly series, begun with Old Bones (2019).

When a local sheriff investigates the illegal activity of relic hunters in an abandoned, middle-of-nowhere New Mexico gold-mining town called High Lonesome, he discovers a mummified corpse and a fabulous cross of gold. The discovery is on federal land, so the FBI gets involved. Special Agent Corrie Swanson would have liked a juicier assignment than checking out some old bones in the high desert, but she has a degree in forensic anthropology, and she’s a rookie. She persuades a reluctant Dr. Nora Kelly, senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to help puzzle out what happened to the man, as it’s unclear whether a crime has been committed. Forensics determine that the gold is slightly radioactive, and there’s a pack animal skull with a bullet hole. And by the looks of the decades-old corpse, the poor man suffered a horrible death. High Lonesome is on the Jornada del Muerto, or Dead Man’s Journey, the bleak and dismal trail that connected Mexico City and Santa Fe during Spanish colonial rule. The authors are expert plotters and storytellers with smart, engaging characters—Kelly is an experienced pro who thinks Swanson “looked very much the rookie.” Newbie Swanson had barely passed her firearms qualification, and being a lousy shot may bring tragic consequences and a guilty conscience. Luckily, Sheriff Watts has practiced his quick draw since he was a preschooler. Meanwhile, some of those relic hunters are dangerous men searching for an object—not the gold—unknown to Kelly and Swanson. To a descendant of the dead man, “most people would have thought his precious item fit only to line a henhouse with.” Expect nice twists, hairy danger, and good old-fashioned gunplay.

This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4727-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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