A distended but often entertaining actioner.

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VESTED INTEREST

A journalist battles a cabal that controls the global economy, much of the U.S. government and countless teams of special-ops honchos in this boisterous thriller.

Fetching Washington Post reporter Lynn Wilson receives two valuable gifts from her uncle, CIA legend Boots Brody. The first is solid training in weapons handling, spycraft, hot-wiring and other handy skills. The second, which Boots hands over just before he is murdered, is a voluminous file that draws murky connections between high-ranking U.S. senators, oil companies and decades’ worth of seemingly unrelated crimes and misadventures, including coups, assassinations, nuclear accidents and even Monicagate. Buzz-cut heavies in SUVs duly materialize and Lynn turns for help to superhacker Sam Wilkins and to her cute Post colleague Chris Urban, whom she trusts with her life—until she overhears him whispering cryptic messages about her into his cell phone. As Lynn, Sam and sundry connect the dots, they stumble upon a shadowy team of intelligence operatives, a network of all-seeing surveillance satellites and moles in the FBI, the Secret Service and the military; the gore quickly escalates, with heads and chests exploding, henchmen dying by the dozen and the whole executive branch edging toward interagency civil war. Hazlewood creates an ambitious, byzantine thriller, but it gets away from him. His conspiracy is so vast and many-tentacled that a huge cast of characters is required to staff and thwart it—so huge that the narrative has trouble individuating them and gets bogged down trying to find interesting things for everyone to do. The leads, especially the bland Lynn and the callow, all-bark archvillain, are a disappointment, while the best characters get killed off early or, like Lynn’s brilliantly ditzy Post assistants, relegated to marginal roles. Still, Hazlewood writes a punchy prose and manages to craft many nifty scenes of sly sleuthing and intricate, gripping combat procedural that will keep readers turning the pages.

A distended but often entertaining actioner.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2009

ISBN: 978-1449029111

Page Count: 468

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2010

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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

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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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