A competent but only moderately suspenseful thriller.

ROGUE JUSTICE

In a sequel to While Justice Sleeps (2021), Abrams gives Supreme Court law clerk–turned– reluctant sleuth Avery Keene another deadly conspiracy to unravel.

Last time out, Keene, a Black woman in her late 20s who worked for loose cannon Justice Howard Wynn, who’s White, used damaging information he had gathered before falling into a coma to help force the semi-Trump-ish President Brandon Stokes (a reviled authoritarian wannabe but one with a deep intellect) at least temporarily out of office, as his Cabinet used the 25th Amendment to sideline him. Now, on the eve of Stokes’ impeachment trial, Keene stumbles on what turns out to be a revenge plot to crash the nation's power grid. Before being shot to death for his efforts, a young law clerk desperately passes her privileged information about factors leading to the suicide of his boss, a federal judge in Idaho. The judge’s death has great significance because she was one of the members of the powerful United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose duties include monitoring national security. Several of its 11 judges had connections to energy companies and exhibited “nonconforming judicial behaviors.” A persona non grata in Washington “who’d roiled a presidency,” Keene finds the going tough, not to mention dangerous. The plot features murderous government officials and an ex-Mossad assassin known as Nyx. While carefully and sometimes cleverly plotted, the novel never really gains momentum. Abrams fails to make the grid conspiracy very threatening, and the story is slowed by awkward writing: “Rage. Grief. Betrayal. Vengeance. Any of these had been known to drive good people to extremes, yet the combination of this tragic quartet manifested in a plot that boggled the mind.” And how jaded have we become that an impeachment is mere background noise?

A competent but only moderately suspenseful thriller.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9780385548328

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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