A missed opportunity.

READ REVIEW

THE ARRANGEMENT

A newly minted sugar baby falls for her sugar daddy with deadly results in Harding’s (Her Pretty Face, 2018, etc.) latest thriller. Welcome to the sugar bowl.

Twenty-one-year-old art student Natalie Murphy is happy to be in New York City and away from Cole, the abusive boyfriend she left behind in tiny Blaine, Washington. Unfortunately, Nat has trouble making rent and is close to getting kicked out of her apartment. Luckily, Nat’s impossibly stylish school friend Ava has a solution. Ava is a sugar baby: She dates wealthy, successful men who sponsor her upscale lifestyle, but Nat has a few reservations, mainly about sex. Ava explains that sex is only on the menu if Nat wants it. After Nat gets fired from her job, she posts a profile on a sugar daddy website and makes a date with the charming and handsome Angeldaddy, aka 55-year-old lawyer Gabe Turnmill. He tells Nat that he’s divorced, but in reality, Gabe sees himself as a martyr who must take care of his wife of 29 years, Celeste, a cancer survivor who gained weight, making her undesirable to poor Gabe. After a few dates, lots of self-recrimination, ignored red flags, and wads of cash, Nat is smitten. It’s not the money that has her hooked—it’s Gabe, who offers Nat an ongoing arrangement, including a monthly allowance, but when he eventually calls it off, Nat goes off the rails, and Gabe must contain the considerable fallout. Murder is, of course, inevitable. The world of sugar babies and their daddies is fascinating, but weak characterizations render Nat and Gabe, and their supporting cast, as little more than cardboard cutouts, and Nat hits every clichéd beat of the scorned lover rendered psychotically hysterical by a powerful, sociopathic man. A lot can be parsed about arrangements with a built-in power imbalance that allow for predatory manipulation, but that’s given only surface-level exploration. More effort is put into heightening the melodrama and engineering soapy twists.

A missed opportunity.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1049-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more