A fresh, enjoyable crime novel that mixes its characters’ base, murderous motivations with a twist of intrigue and history.

READ REVIEW

The Sixth Man

The specter of the Communist regime and the ghost of the Vietnam War loom large over this murder mystery set in present-day Vietnam.

Police Capt. Chyang Fang narrates his journey through political and cultural minefields as he searches for answers regarding multiple killings. He encounters identical clues at two gory crime scenes that point to someone exacting revenge against victims sharing an ugly past. Aided by his confidants, including the disfigured, ill-tempered medical examiner, Ngo, and the simple but loyal Sgt. Phan, Fang follows his instincts down a dangerous path. All of the victims rose to positions of authority in the government-constructed “communist fairyland,” in which, Fang says, “Poor students often don’t survive.” Fang’s dark cynicism not only fuels his off-color humor, but also provides a necessary outlet for a homicide detective working under a repressive system—one that’s reluctant to even acknowledge the existence of foul crimes in what he sarcastically calls the “people’s Eden” of Vietnam: “Few Sai Gon inhabitants…would dare call our leaders ‘pus buckets’ even when alone,” he notes. “For me, it was the one way I could battle the socialist machine.” His fellow citizens, as portrayed here, are far less cowed in their blunt discrimination against Fang due to his mixed Vietnamese-Chinese heritage. This inherent racism and ethnic mistrust are at the heart of a plot that unearths Vietnam’s violent past in a city that harbors dark secrets. One of the book’s strengths is how Lealos (Don’t Mean Nuthin’: A Military Trailer, 2015, etc.) uses Ho Chi Minh City as a lively story element rather than as a static backdrop. His descriptions of the former Saigon are vivid, featuring fruit proffered from carts in hot streets and dog meat masquerading as beef in four-star restaurants, and it’s all seasoned with very salty language; the mellifluous Vietnamese language, too, spices up the English dialogue.

A fresh, enjoyable crime novel that mixes its characters’ base, murderous motivations with a twist of intrigue and history.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0188-5

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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