An intense psychological drama underpins this uneven novel.

THE MEMORY CHILD

Holmes (Sweet Memories, 2013) delves into the world of postpartum psychosis in this novel, which isn’t what it might first appear to be.

Diane seems like a happy new mother who dreads returning to her corporate job and wants only to dote on Grace, her daughter. But from the start, it’s clear that something is very wrong. Where is Brian, her devoted husband? Why does everyone seem to want to ignore Grace? The narrative jumps back and forth from Diane’s present-day perspective to the perspective of Brian when Diane was pregnant. Diane was reluctant to have a child due in part to the fact that, when she was a child, her own mother suffered from postpartum psychosis and killed herself and Diane’s baby brother. Though she and Brian have a good marriage, her pregnancy and a job promotion for Brian introduce strife to their harmonious union. It’s clear from Diane’s present-day narration that she is unwell and suffering from delusions, but readers will need to make it to the end of this twisted tale to find out the full extent of Diane’s delusions. Reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, this novel has a feeling that will unsettle readers from the first page. While the jumps back and forth in time help to move things along, some of the chapters from the past perspective feel repetitive as they describe the relationship between Diane and Brian as well as the friction between them. Clichés abound—“He could argue with her until he was blue in the face”—and at times, the narrative is heavy-handed and relies too much on telling rather than gently showing things, such as Diane’s remembering her father: “I never understood how he could make it into work the next day until I realized he was a functioning alcoholic.” Though the plot could perhaps have been contained within a short story, the central mystery will hold reader interest.

An intense psychological drama underpins this uneven novel.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1477818428

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2014

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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