An entertaining, if sometimes bewildering, action tale that moves at a steady clip.

THE ATROPOS MAKER II

A NEW ORDER

In this second installment of a thriller series, an American black-ops agency vows to rescue children from human traffickers.

Norma Veurr, co-director of the black-ops group Atropos, thwarts a hit against her son, Alexander. Later, she and two other Atropos members face armed assailants in Washington, D.C., where the organization is headquartered. To protect bystanders, Norma and the others willingly go with their attackers, who subsequently hold them captive and torture them. Though Norma survives the ordeal, someone close to her dies. As she plots retaliation against the individual behind the attack on Atropos, a waitress named Elizabeth needs the team’s help. Her 4-year-old son, Charlie, is missing, and it’s soon clear that child traffickers have taken him. As it happens, the same terrorist cell that’s been trying to take out the black-ops group has ties to the culprits. Norma and her team, including Alexander, track the bad guys to Iraq and other countries. They keep their eyes out for Charlie while saving numerous abducted kids along the way. Meanwhile, Alexander struggles with telling his mother that he’s in love with a civilian, a relationship to which both Atropos and Norma may object. Lujan’s hard-hitting story features a fair amount of violence. For example, the villains’ torture of Atropos members is particularly ferocious, though Norma and her team are no less brutal when they’re questioning terrorists. Concurrently, there are quieter, deeper moments with certain characters, from Alexander’s secret romance to Norma’s abusive childhood paralleling the trafficking victims. The hunt for terrorists as well as the search for Charlie sparks an unwavering narrative pace. Nevertheless, though Norma’s physical prowess makes for exhilarating combat scenes, descriptions of the action are occasionally baffling. In several instances, armed individuals inexplicably don’t fire, or they engage in fisticuffs rather than using their guns.

An entertaining, if sometimes bewildering, action tale that moves at a steady clip. (author's note)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 171

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2020

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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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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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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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