NEW YEAR ISLAND by Paul Draker


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A reality show becomes a test of survival for 10 strangers stranded on a small island in Draker’s debut thriller.

What do a producer of animated films, an Army corporal, a rock climber and a doctor have in common? They’re all survivors of tragic events and four of the contestants on a new reality TV series set on Año Nuevo Island, a remote nature preserve inhabited by large, aggressive seals and sea lions. With $5 million at stake, however, the players are less worried about the animals than their fellow contestants—particularly when people start dying. The novel initially hints at a nature-gone-wild plot: Contestants JT and Lauren, for example, are barely off the dock before a “massive wet shape” chases them. In the end, however, the book focuses on the island’s human element. In fact, the people start sizing each other up and mentally formulating teams before they even know what the show’s all about. Even a simple game of capture the flag results in a player tasing her own teammate before the group begins to suspect that there’s a saboteur in their midst. There are a few graphically violent scenes, but for the most part, the author competently emphasizes suspense. In 700-plus pages, Draker has ample room to develop his cast, which he does effortlessly; Camilla, who survived a freeway accident when she was 7, gets most of the spotlight, but the story is teeming with other resplendent characters, such as Mason, a wisecracking banker; Juan, a model-handsome scuba diver; and three scientists who try to ensure that the “TV people” don’t disrupt their research. As the characters’ sullied histories are slowly and meticulously exposed, readers may have difficulty deciding whether they sympathize with many of the contestants. That said, it’s easy to root for their survival in this story about the terrifying things that desperate people can do.

A twisty, engaging thriller featuring well-developed characters.

Pub Date: July 29th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1940511016
Page count: 724pp
Publisher: Mayhem Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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