Global warming is a mere plot device for this substantial thriller.

White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy

In Tag’s (Category 5, 2005, etc.) thriller, a scientist learns that Nazis are planning a return to power with an attack of worldwide proportions—and that her family in Colombia may be behind it all.

Linda Kipling’s father, on his deathbed, relays shocking news: Linda’s family fled Germany at the end of World War II. Her father was unaware of the true atrocities of the Nazi regime, but her uncle Friedrich certainly wasn’t, based on letters he’d written to Kipling’s mother. Friedrich has apparently been plotting a Nazi “comeback” for some years. Kipling makes cousins Dieter and Axel Müller nervous when she flies to Cartagena, Colombia, to see what they might know about Friedrich’s purported plan; clearly, she’s onto something big. She and Victor Silverstein, her boss at the Naval Research Laboratory in California, connect the Nazi scheme to missing NRL researchers in Greenland and a couple of NRL scientists murdered in the U.S. Friedrich’s letters hint at the plan’s catastrophic goal, and global warming may not be as natural an occurrence as people believe. It may seem that the author is setting up a preachy environmental message on climate change, but he instead dishes out a solid thriller rife with action and suspense. Parts are reminiscent of a murder mystery, as Capt. Jane Stigler of the Federal Center for Data Examination, whose former well-respected boss was one of the people killed, investigates the murders with technical director Andrew Peters. Other scenes smolder with tension, like Kipling’s trying to escape the Müllers’ compound after realizing that her cousins are no longer interested in letting her live. Anticipation is at full steam for most of the story: Dieter and Axel, who are, at least for readers, indisputably the villains, have a Plan B should their Greenland operation be discovered, and it’s even more ominous than what’s already taking place. A few of Kipling’s actions are questionable: She’s smart enough to avoid going to the NRL or home when she’s being trailed by an assassin, but she rather foolishly keeps her cellphone on—a beginner’s mistake in this day and age. Still, Kipling’s a worthy protagonist, and she and Silverstein, featured in Tag’s prior novels, may earn new fans.

Global warming is a mere plot device for this substantial thriller.

Pub Date: April 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1475978247

Page Count: 406

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2014

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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