Parkin and Darby can’t write a memorable sentence between them, but they do keep the paranoid complications coming fast and...

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SERPENTINE

A roller coaster run amok is only the curtain raiser in this blood-and-thunder tale of Americans doing what they do best: neutralizing domestic saboteurs who also happen to be Americans.

There’s no reason that the Black Mamba, the state-of-the-art concession Nathan Morrell just designed for Flying Machines Inc., would self-destruct in the middle of a maiden voyage carrying 26 happily screaming members of the Coaster Crazies. But it does, and twice: second, when a welded joint in the track failed, sending the Crazies hurtling to their doom, and first, moments earlier, when the safety bars holding them in inexplicably failed. Surgical nurse Shelby Sutcliffe, the only Crazy to survive the calamity, remembers distinctly that her safety bar loosened before the coaster went off the rails. But no one seems to believe her—certainly not John Fletcher, the National Transportation Safety Board investigator charged with reporting on the incident for reasons no one can explain—except for Nate Morrell himself, who risked his own life to save Shelby and who knows perfectly well that it was no welded joint but a solid piece of metal that somehow failed. Nor is it any mystery why the fix is in: Carl Masterson, Director of Security and Intelligence for the National Security Agency, arranged the accident in order to keep a monstrous rogue terrorist operation secret, and he’s equally willing to arrange more accidents for anyone imprudent enough to get in his way, from recent survivors of amusement-park mishaps to the roller-coaster designers who’ve fallen for them. As for what that operation is—well, we’d tell you, but then we’d have to kill you.

Parkin and Darby can’t write a memorable sentence between them, but they do keep the paranoid complications coming fast and furious. Be warned: every explanation of how a particularly impressive bit of technology is supposed to work indicates that this time it won’t.

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9936753-8-6

Page Count: 287

Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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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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