A moody yarn that cannily merges punk-rock world weariness and real-world criminality.


A safecracker tries to avoid a gang of drug dealers long enough to make one last score.

Ricky Mendoza Jr., the hero of Gattis’ sixth book (All Involved, 2015, etc.), is a safecracker with the nickname Ghost, which evokes both his secrecy and his mordant sensibility. As the story opens, he’s determined to skim some money for “somebody who needs it” during a DEA raid of an LA stash house. This risks the ire of his federal employers but something even worse from the gangsters from Southern California and Mexico who spot him leaving the house with a suspicious bag. Rudolfo, the novel’s second narrator, is a gangster who’s watching Ricky but who has his own personal interests and relationship with the Drug Enforcement Administration to maintain. Between the two men, Gattis’ novel is full of streetwise observations about the drug trade, from secretive communication methods to avoid wiretaps (sign language) to the cartel’s cruel punishments for misbehavior (barrels, gasoline). But Ricky also has a tender side: he’s a cancer survivor and recovering addict who can’t shake the memory of his late girlfriend, Rose. (Throughout the novel he turns to a mix tape of old-school punk rock Rose made him.) Plus, the novel is set across three days in September 2008, just as the housing market is cratering, and Ricky is eager to provide some financial support to a few incipient Great Recession victims. The narrative back and forth between Ricky and Rudolfo is a bit out of balance—Ricky is clearly the better-drawn figure—and the prose gets soft whenever Ricky does. (“The world is going to be better off without any more of me in it, but it sure could have used a lot more of her.”) But the tension about Ricky’s fate remains steady to the novel’s somber, surprising conclusion, which justifies the neo-noirish mood he cultivates.

A moody yarn that cannily merges punk-rock world weariness and real-world criminality.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-25337-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...


Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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