Cook’s spot in the pantheon of page-turning, bestselling thriller authors who write like Siri is secure.

GENESIS

Cutting-edge DNA database techniques are put to work by a foulmouthed troublemaker in the office of New York City’s chief medical examiner.

Medical thriller pioneer Cook (Pandemic, 2018, etc.) kicked off his Laurie Montgomery/Jack Stapleton series in 1992 with Blindsight. By now—the current book is the 12th in the series—the two autopsy mavens are married and she is New York’s chief medical examiner. They are raising one kid with autism, another with potential ADHD, and Laurie herself may have to have a double mastectomy. But forget all that, because nobody is reading these books for the character development (“It was hopelessly clear to her that she would most likely never get over her aversion to speaking in front of groups, just like she was likely never to get over her fear of authority figures thanks to her emotionally distant and domineering father”) or for the writing (“She could see that sun had cleared the horizon, again bathing that water tower on the neighboring building in golden light. To Laurie it seemed symbolic of having come to a decision”). See, he writes just like a real doctor. On the other hand, the plot is gangbusters. The death of a 10-weeks-pregnant social worker looks like an opioid overdose, but since the woman was not a drug user and there’s no daddy on the scene, something seems a little off. Particularly to the brilliant, misanthropic, sociopathically rude and self-important Dr. Aria Nichols, who’s been sent over from NYU for her pathology residency. The minute she sees the fetus in the uterus they’re dissecting she has an insight. “This wasn’t a sperm donor pregnancy. Some bastard had his way with this woman and then abandons her. I can just feel it. Hell, he might have even supplied the drugs or been the reason she decided to take them.” The technique she employs to track down that sperm donor is similar to that used in the real-life Golden State Killer case and even more like the method memoirist Dani Shapiro used to find her real father, as described in Inheritance.

Cook’s spot in the pantheon of page-turning, bestselling thriller authors who write like Siri is secure.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-54215-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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