A strong, if sometimes confusing, tale of operatic moral corrosion.

GODS & GANGSTERS

Violent crime and romantic jealousy entangle a rising rap group in this urban thriller.

Longtime friends Power, Kane, Messiah, Lil’ Earl, and Ty Five$ call themselves Q.B.C., short for Queens Boro Crew, having grown up in the projects there. When Power and Kane form a hip-hop group, they naturally dub it Q.B.C. and continue criminal activities with the crew while making quite a name for themselves recording for Paul Duppy of Notorious Records. At the age of 17, Power gets off on a murder charge when Kane and Messiah gun down the cop planning to testify against him. The crew travels to North Carolina on a tip from Lil’ Earl’s cousin Tyrone “Ty” Braswell, who knows of an easily burgled pawnshop with a large stash of guns. But things go sideways when Ty mistakenly leaves DNA behind; three years later, a nightclub shooting is traced to the robbery, leading to the arrest of Q.B.C. members. A rising star at Notorious Records is Egypt Moore, who’s talented, sexy—and an undercover cop. She’s been tasked with infiltrating the music world because Xavier Montenegro, commonly known as The Colombian, is laundering drug money through rap labels. Egypt and Power soon begin a relationship that, while hot and heavy, deepens into something more. Nevertheless, as part of her job, Egypt must pretend to betray Power with Kane, causing bad blood between the men and breaking up Q.B.C. Power begins a solo career; Egypt becomes a worldwide success; and Duppy heads for a fall, but not before exerting his power to humiliate women. Meanwhile, The Colombian is holding all the strings, manipulating the players toward his own secretive ends.

In his latest crime novel, SLMN offers a complex plot that jumps backward and forward in time from an anchoring narrative in which two White detectives interrogate a Black suspect who’s at first unnamed. The hip-hop scene is reflected in several elements; the chapters are called tracks, for example, and are accompanied by symbols for pause, rewind, play, and other functions. Also reflective of some trends in rap music is the story’s hardcore pornographic and usually misogynistic sex together with the merciless, graphic violence that’s vividly—for some readers, too vividly—described (“Messiah sat on Peanut’s legs and without hesitation, plunged the red hot curler straight up his ass….When Messiah extracted the curling iron, the putrid smell of hot shit and blood instantly filled the room to a nauseating level. Green diarrhea ran from Peanut’s ass like a cracked sewer”). The sense of peering into a powerful world unknown to most readers gives the story a compelling hook, and the high-octane plot gains authenticity from SLMN’s mastery of street slang in dialogue like “They all gonna be tryin’ to speak the thun language. What the drilly wit’ that tho!” But keeping track of the storylines can be difficult even with cues. For example, after an interrogation scene, Track 3 skips around considerably: 10 years earlier, present day, six months earlier, five years earlier, present day, 15 years earlier, 10 years later, eight years later, and present day.

A strong, if sometimes confusing, tale of operatic moral corrosion.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9987674-2-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Kingston Imperial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 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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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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