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THE GULF

A thoughtful novel with a hint of mystery. Its still waters run deep.

When a hurricane hits Parson, Texas, in 1970, bartender Louisa Ward’s past and present collide as she seeks to build a future.

Lou doesn’t want to leave the town where she grew up, but her aunt and niece have already relocated to San Antonio, and her partner, Heather—who’s also her brother's widow—is getting ready to pull up stakes and join them. Lou’s also still reeling from the sudden, violent death of Miss Kate, the owner of an old plantation just outside of town. When Miss Kate’s daughter, Joanna, returns, planning to sell the plantation, Lou agrees to help clean up the house. They had been childhood friends but had a falling-out in high school and haven’t been in touch since. Joanna’s presence draws Lou back into memories of the past—of their complicated friendship; of her brother, Robby, who died in Vietnam; of Joanna’s sister, Cass, who died in a mysterious accident. But slowly she begins to realize that the memories she’s held as “true” are actually missing vital pieces, most notably Miss Kate’s involvement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There’s also a mysterious group of women, led by the charismatic Peg, who live outside of town and have their money bound up in Miss Kate’s house. Despite the inherent drama, this novel is a slow burn. The pacing works wonderfully, though, because just when we think we know something—about Lou’s past, about Peg’s group, about Joanna’s motives—Cochran spins in a new perspective or memory or piece of information that completely alters our understanding of plot, characters, even genre. The constant reversal of certainty is masterfully executed and adds tension in unexpected ways. Cochran also uses the time period to draw a deeper reflection on belonging—and to emphasize the danger for those who will always be “outsiders.”

A thoughtful novel with a hint of mystery. Its still waters run deep.

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 9780063284128

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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