THE DRESS LODGER

If Clive Barker ever writes a historical novel, he’ll be hard pressed to invent horrors more lurid than the rotting corpses and dangling viscera that grace, so to speak, this lurid and fascinating second novel from Holman (A Stolen Tongue, 1997). Teenaged Gustine (the —dress lodger—), a prostitute whose “master” garbs her in finery in order to attract the lust of well-paying gentry, is the focal point of this high-energy melodrama, set in the English riverside city of Sunderland in 1831—a year when a plague of “cholera morbus” decimates the populace, and engages the initially reluctant services of Henry Chiver, a young physician hoping to specialize in diseases of the heart but compromised by fallout from the scandal also involving the notorious “body snatchers” Burke and Hare, which had caused him to leave Edinburgh in disgrace. Holman’s busy plot also involves Chiver’s idealistic fiancÇe Audrey Place, a progressive young woman who pits herself against the plague’s root causes—poverty and uncleanliness; Gustine’s blackhearted procurer Whilky Robinson, along with his beloved pet ferret Mike; and a mute, one-eyed old woman (known locally as the —Eye—) employed by Whilky to keep watch on Gustine’s nocturnal wanderings. The interactions of these and several other remarkably complex characters occur in a context of deepening fear and conflict, exacerbated by the belief of Sunderland’s poor that the medical establishment casually sacrifices them to aid its researches; by Henry’s increasingly guilty conscience, and by Gustine’s efforts to protect—from both death and doctors—her illegitimate baby, an anatomical misfit born with its “heart . . . beating on the outside of its chest.” Many more grotesqueries appear, in an atmospheric tale that may have readers gasping for air. Another stunner from a gifted and versatile new master of historical fiction. (First printing of 40,000; Book-of-the- Month/Quality Paperback Book Club selections)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-87113-753-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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