Action junkies will be more than satisfied by this thriller.

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PIROZ THE ISIS SLAYER

A Kurdish warrior and an American soldier take on Islamic terrorists threatening massive Ebola attacks in Barrameda’s debut adventure novella.

When members of the terrorist group Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham (aka the Islamic State group, ISIL, or ISIS) massacre a village, it turns out that they have a hidden agenda: retrieval of some Ebola samples and their corresponding research. Soon they create weapons armed with the virus—a new strain that rapidly infects and kills its victims. U.S. Air Force Col. Mark Thomas initiates a personal mission of vengeance after the terrorist group bombs his base, and he commandeers a helicopter to rescue several captured women from the radicals. One of those women is Ren, a trained warrior who already has her own vendetta against the terrorists, who are responsible for the deaths of her father and brother. Mark and Ren form a two-person army and set their sights on the terrorist leader, Askari. This novella is a quick read that gets the action started almost immediately. The story speeds through much of its plot; a helicopter in flight, for example, is sure to be on the ground by the very next page. Barrameda’s prose is compact and precise, and she packs her novella with continuous gunfire and endless explosions. She also allows Ren to stand out, as her weapon of choice is a knife—an abundance of knives, actually, which she deftly throws at her enemies. Amazingly, the author still leaves room to develop her two main characters, and they convincingly build mutual trust by repeatedly saving each other from certain death. Their inevitable romantic relationship, on the other hand, is a little harder to believe; they fall in love too quickly and easily, and the scenes of the two in each other’s arms are considerably less engaging than the ones in which they battle extremists. The story manages a surprisingly understated ending that offers both resolution and the possibility of a sequel.

Action junkies will be more than satisfied by this thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1507568279

Page Count: 98

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

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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

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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