A bait-and-switch for fans of police noir, but red meat for readers who wish Harry Potter had swapped his YA credentials for...

NOCTURNAL

A genre-bending urban fantasy that pits San Francisco’s Finest against a subterranean horde of monsters who threaten the human race.

Inspector Bryan Clauser, SFPD, is disturbed because he keeps dreaming of crimes that come horrifyingly true when he’s awake. Rex Deprovdechuk, 13, is disturbed because the older kids bully him when he’s at Galileo High and his mother beats him when he’s not. Aggie James is disturbed because someone has snatched him from the streets of San Francisco, where he’s made his home ever since things went terribly wrong in his life, and chained him up in an underground realm of mutants who keep taking away his fellow prisoners and killing them one by one. These three unlikely combatants are brought together by a series of murders that seem at first to be the work of a human killer. In short order, someone kills a pedophile priest, a cop newly promoted from Vice to Homicide and several of Rex’s teenaged tormentors. Rex and Bryan, not to be outdone, get to taste blood themselves, and very tasty it is too. Sigler (Ancestor, 2010, etc.) drops hints of the paranormal from the beginning, but it’s not till halfway through that his tale jumps the shark by means of forensic findings that mark the killers as both human and bestial—and indeed as rather close blood relatives. Once they realize what they’re up against and see that the police department and the city government are anything but trustworthy allies, Bryan and his motley crew shift from police-procedural mode to save-the-world heroics, even when “they were outnumbered four to one by motherfucking monsters with guns.” 

A bait-and-switch for fans of police noir, but red meat for readers who wish Harry Potter had swapped his YA credentials for a badge and gun.

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-40634-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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