A bracing Vonnegut-esque performance full of angels and demons, winking commentary, and occasional bloodshed.

MASTERS' MYSTERIUM

NIAGARA FALLS

This third installment of a fantasy series finds Lucifer, disguised as a senator, preparing to take over the United States.

Sixteen-year-old Bailey Tannahill is a self-professed “tomboy” who loves hunting. She lives with her 19-year-old brother, Ian, and their parents, Brian and Linda, on a compound in the wilderness near Youngstown, New York. While trying to capture muskrats on the Miller property, Bailey witnesses a bright light and hideous winged creatures. These are demons that answer to Satan, who currently possesses the body of Sen. Bill Stevenson. When Brian, a hardcore survivalist, learns about Bailey’s sighting, he insists the family drive to Las Vegas, where angels recently defeated some demons. Ian stays in New York in hopes of working at the Pantomime Theater with the Amazing Ahti, an alcoholic magician. In Las Vegas, the Rev. Jay Masters wants to expand his Mysterium franchise to showcase the surreal battles between angels and demons that he and his daughter, Trudy, have experienced. Trudy, pregnant with her husband Gavin’s child, can now see the heavenly “ladders” by which the angels travel. She’s not the only person to display a strange, new power. Ian has been making small objects vanish, a harmless skill until he accidentally casts Bailey into the unknown. In this volume of Reynolds’ (Masters’ Mysterium: Las Vegas, 2015, etc.) quirky series, the author nudges Masters and Trudy out of the spotlight to make room for the Tannahill siblings. Their teenage struggles are well illustrated. Ian wants to be a lighting technician, not a survivalist like his father; Bailey, meanwhile, undergoes a heartening change when the power to communicate with animals manifests, forcing her to question a blind acceptance of hunting. And no story in which the devil possesses a politician would be complete without amusing lines like “Many senators tried to live on their meager $174,000 income without success.” Stevenson’s plot to found the Academy of Peace and Justice feels constrained by Reynolds’ large cast and the rotating tableaux that feature them, but the author’s wicked sense of humor remains intact.

A bracing Vonnegut-esque performance full of angels and demons, winking commentary, and occasional bloodshed.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9886797-1-9

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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