A twisty and poignant debut.

THE QUIET GIRL

Alex Zarabian thought life was good with his new wife, Mina, until the day she disappeared.

Alex, the chief financial officer of a startup that aims to cure cancer, loves being married to successful romance author Mina Richards, and he thought she was happy, too. However, they'd argued on Monday when Alex suggested they start a family, and Mina left their Boston home for her little writing cottage in Provincetown. It wasn’t unusual for Mina to retreat to her cottage to write and think, and he thought giving her space for a few days would help, but it’s out of character for her not to respond to his texts. He only truly starts to worry when he goes up to Provincetown after work on Wednesday and finds her wedding and engagement rings in a little ceramic bowl on her desk. Then he learns that a neighbor saw Mina load a cake carrier into her car Monday night, evidently on her way to her parents’ house for dinner, which they confirm, but that’s where the trail ends. At a loss, Alex files a missing person report and starts digging for clues himself. When her phone and her car, with her wallet and keys locked inside, are found, Alex truly panics. Then there’s that new manuscript Mina left with her editor that was unlike anything she’d ever written. Turns out Alex didn’t know as much about his wife as he thought. The pseudonymous Kosa puts her real-world experience as a clinical psychologist to work exploring trauma and its insidiousness while deftly weaving together two seemingly unrelated narratives: Alex’s first-person account and one that focuses on a troubled young waitress named Layla. The story takes a bit of time to find its footing, and the passages about Alex’s workplace woes seem extraneous. However, once it picks up the pace, readers, especially those that appreciate less-than-tidy resolutions, will be hooked.

A twisty and poignant debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-15563

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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