A solid thriller that leaves you thinking it could have been much better.

THE HOPE VENDETTA

On the brink of suicide following his wife's death, one-time British special-forces operative Ben Hope is intent on putting his violent past behind him and studying religion at Oxford. But when a family friend's daughter, a renowned biblical archaeologist, goes missing in Greece—and the young friend Ben sent to find her is killed in a bombing—Ben is forced to dust off his killing skills and spring back into action.

The stakes are big in Mariani's second Hope novel (The Mozart Conspiracy, 2011). Zoë Bradbury is abducted because she says she discovered an artifact that exposes as false the Book of Revelation and its ultimate promise of Rapture. This rankles an international conspiracy bent on using Revelation to orchestrate the destruction of Israel by Islamic forces. The discovery also upsets the plans of Clayton Cleaver, a popular TV evangelist in Georgia who has based his political hopes on the prophecies. Frustrated by Zoë's amnesia, caused by a head injury, her abductors threaten to inject her with a newly invented truth serum that will reduce her to psychotic rubble. Ben's pursuits take him to Savannah, where he learns that Zoë, an Amy Winehouse–like party girl, was blackmailing Cleaver. Rendered unconscious by the bad guys, Hope wakes up in Montana, where he has relatively little trouble dispatching the bad guys with the help of a smitten female CIA agent. The story takes us, finally, to Jerusalem, where Hope must thwart plans to blow up the Dome of the Rock. Mariani constructs the thriller with skill and intelligence, staging some good action scenes, and Hope is an appealing protagonist. However, the book's premise is undercooked. There's little threat of worldwide upheaval, or much of a threat to the principals. The book might well have been better off eschewing its Dan Brown Da Vincisms and turning up the tension on the more grounded elements of the story.

A solid thriller that leaves you thinking it could have been much better.

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9347-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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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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