THE GUILTY PLEA

Canadian attorney Rotenberg’s second legal thriller asks whether the estranged wife of a Toronto grocery king took a murderous shortcut in settling the terms of their divorce.

Someone certainly had it in for Terrance Wyler. The co-owner of Wyler Foods was stabbed seven times and left to bleed out on his kitchen floor. Detective Ari Greene, working once more with lawyer-turned-cop Daniel Kennicott (Old City Hall, 2009), quickly settles on Samantha Wyler as the obvious suspect. The couple’s negotiations over their divorce had been stormy from the beginning; Samantha had threatened Terry by e-mail the night he died; and she not only visited the crime scene ahead of the police but pinched the murder weapon. Ari’s former lover, one-time head Crown Attorney Jennifer Raglan, recalled from obscurity to try the case, aims for a conviction on second-degree murder charges. But she’s repeatedly overruled by insecure, wavering Judge Irene Norville, who, swayed by Samantha’s lawyer, Ted DiPaulo, doesn’t want Samantha separated any longer than possible from her 4-year-old son Simon, even though mother and child have never been close. So Raglan watches as Norville first grants Samantha bail and house arrest, then high-handedly arranges for her to plead guilty to manslaughter. The likelihood that Terry’s killer will go free in five years outrages his parents and his two brothers, much-married Nathan and Jason, crippled by spinal muscle atrophy, who are mollified only because avoiding a trial will keep their darkest family secrets secret. When Samantha’s day in court finally comes, however, she refuses to admit that she stabbed Terry. Now the stage is set for a trial guaranteed to make no one happy, except of course for experienced genre fans who find plea bargains anticlimactic and downright wimpy. Ferocious, blunt-edged and finally unremarkable courtroom battles swirl around a cast of characters who consistently act as if they have more interesting depths than they’re willing to show.

 

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27849-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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