A tightly plotted tale with characters that could energize a planned series.

ALL SYSTEMS DOWN

In Boush’s debut thriller, a North Korean cyberattack cripples America’s infrastructure, sparking chaos and leaving the country vulnerable to a military invasion.

Brendan Chogan first senses trouble afoot during his job interview for a security-guard position at a Portland, Oregon, robotics company. A computer virus is apparently affecting the building, which then loses internet access. A report comes in by phone that the internet is down across the country. It’s merely the beginning of a North Korean strike against U.S. systems, and soon citizens nationwide lose their cellular service and electricity. Panic ensues, and Brendan realizes that he, his wife, Vailea, and their 8-year-old twin daughters may not be safe. Meanwhile, hacker Xandra Strandlien’s boss at U.S. Cyber Command sends her to Oregon. Intelligence on Chinese-Russian joint military exercises has led to a fear of a post-cyberattack armed invasion, and the Oregon area, which has no military bases nearby, is a potential target. As Brendan and Vailea struggle to secure their home and stockpile food and water, they encounter allies, including Xandra and a couple of U.S. Navy fighter pilots who lost contact with their supercarrier. When an invasion indeed materializes, this small group works together on a mission to upload malware to the enemies’ servers. Despite the fact that the attack is nationwide, Boush concentrates on the characters in Oregon, who later include vacationing campers from Los Angeles. It’s a wise choice, as the story mixes smaller battles (such as characters fending off would-be intruders at the Chogan house) with large-scale ones; Xandra’s plan, for example, entails jumping from a low-flying plane into a river. The author also richly details the cyberattack’s chaotic aftermath; for instance, Vailea gets a workout in a grocery store that’s besieged by a horde of frenzied shoppers: “She gasped for breath, muscles straining like treading water.” Interestingly, the most striking character is a relatively minor one: Sierra Eigelb, a random survivor who first appears about halfway through the novel. Her newfound affinity for killing turns her into a terrifying villain. The story’s swift pace leads to a surprisingly thorough wrap-up.

A tightly plotted tale with characters that could energize a planned series.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9944512-7-9

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Lakewater Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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