Witty and glib, with a cliffhanger ending that seems contrived.

READ REVIEW

BABYLON SISTERS

Cleage (Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do, 2003, etc.) returns to Atlanta’s West End in this comedy-tinged thriller.

Catherine “Cat” Sanderson is one of many empowered single mothers living in the district. Her consulting business, Babylon Sisters, is thriving, and her teenaged daughter, Phoebe, is off to private boarding school for her senior year. So far, Cat has managed to deflect Phoebe’s insistent questions about her father by planting imagined lovers with real names in college-era diaries concocted to throw Phoebe off the scent. But this scheme backfires when Phoebe demands DNA tests from all the red herrings. Meanwhile, Cat has been recruited by the dulcet-voiced Sam Hall to work for Ezola Mandeville, once a maid, now a maid-service mogul whose company somehow makes a profit while managing to raise the domestic workers it employs out of poverty. Ezola wants to expand her operation to include immigrant and refugee women, a cause Cat embraces because her friend Amelia, a successful lawyer and lap-swimmer, has called on her to help Miriam, a Haitian exile whose sister Etienne has been abducted into sex slavery. But Sam’s “greed-is-good” cynicism has aroused Cat’s suspicions, and her life is further unsettled by the reappearance of Phoebe’s father, renowned foreign correspondent Burghardt Johnson (“B.J.”). Eighteen years before, B.J. left Cat on the eve of her abortion that never was. Now, he’s lending by-line cachet to the Sentinel, a historic African-American paper fallen on hard times. The editor and founder’s son, Louis, is Cat’s best childhood friend and Phoebe’s godfather. The Sentinel launches a series of exposés of a sinister syndicate trafficking in illegal aliens for cut-rate big box cleaning contracts and forced prostitution. B.J.’s investigation links Sam to the slumlord who houses the immigrants, and an attempt to enlist Ezola’s aid proves disastrous when Cat learns, too late, that Mandeville Maid Services really is too good to be true.

Witty and glib, with a cliffhanger ending that seems contrived.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-345-45609-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more