Oodles of atmosphere largely make up for a bit of predictability in this gothic chiller.

READ REVIEW

WHILE YOU SLEEP

A woman seeking solitude finds much more than she bargained for—maybe even a ghost or two—on a windswept Scottish island.

Connecticut artist Zoe Adams, fleeing a failing marriage, has rented the remote, recently renovated 19th-century McBride mansion in Scotland for a month. She’s eager to settle in and paint the beautiful landscape just outside her door. Landlords Mick and Kaye are welcoming, but at the pub they also own, elderly local bookseller Charles—who's a bit obsessed with McBride lore—tells her that the house has quite a history, one that Mick would prefer was kept on the down low. Her first night is a doozy: After falling into an exhausted sleep, she dreams of a shadow lover that brings her to new heights of passion and glimpses a dark figure on the beach looking up at the house. Then there’s the persistent singing—a haunting, achingly sad rendition of a song Kaye sang at the bar. Most people would have been out the door and back on a plane home forthwith, but not our intrepid heroine. Zoe blames the strange happenings on fatigue and digs her heels in. Of course, the odd occurrences escalate (do they ever), and she learns from Charles that the McBride history is very strange indeed: It turns out that the man who built the house and his bride, Ailsa, were into the occult, and the circumstances surrounding her death and that of her little boy were suspect. As the danger escalates, it becomes difficult for Zoe to tell the difference between dreams and reality. And, of course, there’s a storm coming. Merritt, who also writes as S.J. Parris (Conspiracy, 2016, etc.), fully immerses readers in her richly imagined setting and hints that there’s much more to the events leading up to Zoe’s trip. The author’s strenuous attempt to counter the unfortunate trope of the hysterical woman is laudable, and Zoe comes to relate to the misunderstood Ailsa. Zoe's flirtation with a much younger schoolteacher named Edward is refreshing, realistic, and very sexy. Merritt certainly knows how to build suspense and dread even if readers of the genre will find a few of the elements familiar.

Oodles of atmosphere largely make up for a bit of predictability in this gothic chiller.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-005-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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