No action thriller this—it’s all courtroom drama.

TRAGIC

Tanenbaum (Bad Faith, 2012, etc.) goes on the waterfront in his latest in his crime series featuring Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi.

Charlie Vitteli runs the New York City–based North American Brotherhood of Stevedores. That’s bad for its members. Vitelli wants to hold onto power and continue to take bribes for avoiding safety regulations while also dipping into embezzled pension fund money. Using Joey Barros, his razor-toting enforcer, as go-between, Vitteli contracts with a Russian mob wannabe for the assassination of a union reformer. The murder’s done, but the ugly punk from St. Petersburg is soon caught, along with two local mopes. That’s when Roger "Butch" Karp, district attorney for New York County, steps in. One of the trio turns state’s witness. The three are convicted. The Russian wannabe is quickly eliminated in a prison murder engineered by the Brighton Beach–based Malchek bratka. That convinces the other mope to turn state’s witness, and Vitteli is indicted and convicted. With killers and motives laid out, this is no page-turning whodunit. Instead, Karp flexes his Jack McCoy muscles, giving courtroom-theater fans something to do when television is bereft of Law and Order re-runs. While Marlene Ciampi is a minor player, the narrative is bloated, with some contradictions and "that can’t happen" moments. Most characters are clichés, but two or three break out: Jackie Corcione, weakling son of the union founder who is kept in line by the threat of outing his homosexuality; "Dirty Warren," Tourette’s-afflicted, street-wise newsstand operator; and Ivgeny Karchovski, retired USSR colonel and boss of a not-so-bad Russian gang, thugs who are willing to deal in illegal immigration, false papers and black markets but draw the line at drugs, guns and prostitution. Conveniently, Ivgeny is Butch’s cousin and part of an underworld pipeline. Tanenbaum tosses in quotes and references to Macbeth—"I have murdered sleep" being handy shorthand for a beleaguered conscience—but that’s an elaborate blueprint for a small structure.  

No action thriller this—it’s all courtroom drama.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-3555-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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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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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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