A historical thriller minus the history.

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HOW QUICKLY SHE DISAPPEARS

An Alaska woman is drawn into the web of a murderer when he promises to explain her twin sister’s disappearance in Fleischmann’s debut novel.

It's 1941. Elisabeth Pfautz has moved from Lititz, Pennsylvania, the small German immigrant community of her childhood, to Alaska, where her husband, John, has accepted a job teaching children of the Athabaskan tribe. At first Elisabeth, John, and their precocious 11-year-old daughter, Margaret, adjust well to life in the village of Tanacross. But when Alfred, a substitute mail pilot, flies in, Elisabeth can’t quite identify the root of his strangeness. It’s not just that he once flew missions for the kaiser, claims to have seen spaceships, and picks a very bad time to extol their common German heritage. In periodic dreams, Elisabeth relives the year 1921, when she and her twin sister, Jacqueline, were 11. Jacqueline was obsessed with a man named Jacob, another German Great War veteran, who wrote her letters and gave her an ornate dagger. Then one day, Jacqueline disappeared, and so did Jacob. Now Alfred, the mail pilot, tells Elisbaeth that he holds the key to her sister's disappearance and will disclose her whereabouts—for a price. Alfred murders an Athabaskan man, apparently in cold blood, and is sent to prison in Fairbanks. Through letters and prison visits that arouse John’s ire, Elisabeth is given tasks by Alfred that are increasingly intrusive and risky. Soon she is forced into a stark choice between protecting her current family and reclaiming her past. This is a page-turner, keeping us glued to Elisabeth’s struggles as she tries to turn the manipulations of a psychopath to her own ends. But if it weren't for technological advances that might have obviated its premise, this book could have been set in the present. The World War II milieu is glancingly and unconvincingly evoked. The language, particularly the dialogue, does not even attempt the parlance of the day; instead, it is replete with anachronisms like “You’re venting,” "Give me the bottom line,” and "I am here for you,” to cite only a few. However, the Alaskan setting is vividly detailed.

A historical thriller minus the history.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984-80517-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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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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