The darkness runs deep in this skillfully plotted chiller.

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FINAL CUT

A documentarian gets more than she bargains for when she chooses remote Blackwood Bay as the location of her next film.

Alexandra Young’s harrowing first film, Black Winter, won her accolades, but her second film was a failure, and she needs another hit or her career may be in jeopardy. Alex wants to document what life is like in a small village in the north of England by asking people to send in their own footage, which she would then curate. She secures funding, and the people who hold the purse strings coax her into choosing Blackwood Bay, where she spent a troubled childhood, as her subject. She wouldn't have chosen it herself, but with her career on the line, she agrees. It’s also made clear that she’s to look into the suicide of 15-year-old Daisy Willis,who plunged off a cliff to her death a decade ago. Daisy’s body was never found, but suicide was a foregone conclusion. Then, seven years later, Zoe Pearson, another teen, went missing. After the project is announced to Blackwood Bay citizens, the video clips started pouring in. However, to properly look into the disappearances, Alex must travel to Blackwood Bay. She does have faint memories of the town, but now it’s as if she’s “seeing it through a filter, a distorting prism.” As she gathers footage and probes the residents, it’s clear that some people don’t believe Daisy killed herself and that the incident could be connected to Zoe’s disappearance. Alex doesn’t quite see how the two could be related, but she does sense an insidious rot  lingering under the coastal town’s quaint facade. When another teen girl goes missing, the town is looking for someone to blame, and no one is safe, not even Alex. Before she knows it, Alex is no longer a passive observer: She’s part of the story. Watson gradually turns up the heat while carefully teasing out wicked secrets that the town would rather keep buried, and Alex, who has her own secrets, makes an appealing, if possibly unreliable, narrator.

The darkness runs deep in this skillfully plotted chiller.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06238-215-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

A TIME FOR MERCY

A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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