A provocative exploration of the ethics of mental health counseling.

DUTY TO WARN

Two psychologists wrestle with the ghosts in a troubled patient's life and their own.

Retired mental health worker Kersting's debut novel is the taut story of a crisis in the lives of two psychologists when one suspects his patient may have returned to his hometown to seek revenge for childhood abuse. After Robert Percy departs for rural Michigan, his counselor David Malden's worry that the Buffalo manufacturing worker may be bent on inflicting violence on someone from his past causes Malden to believe he may have a duty to warn potential victims under New York law. With little information about Percy's precise whereabouts, and ignoring the caution of his colleague and friend Sonja Nielsen, Malden embarks for Michigan to intervene. The novel expertly shifts perspective among these three characters, maintaining a high level of tension surrounding Percy's intentions and whether Malden will be able to reach him in time to prevent the tragedy he fears. Focusing tightly on the human dimension of her story, Kersting avoids the twin curses of reliance on professional jargon or the need to establish her credibility by inundating the reader with unnecessary information, creating considerable narrative momentum without sacrificing telling detail that adds pathos to the account of Percy's childhood in a series of foster homes. Kersting also artfully inserts the backstories of Malden and Nielsen, in his case a crumbling marriage as a result of his recent casual affair and a college-age daughter whose long-standing depression has flared, and in hers, a brother's long-ago suicide. Through this, she suggests that skilled counselors may find the need to resolve their own problems before they can address the ones their patients present. As Nielsen sees it, this is a story of "how a heart, if it wanted to badly enough, began to heal itself," but it's every bit as much a well-informed and thoughtful glimpse of that same heart's sometimes-impenetrable mysteries.

A provocative exploration of the ethics of mental health counseling.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-946724-10-6

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Acre

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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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

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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