An assassin story that delivers action while shrewdly examining the consequences.

Furies Unleashed

In Elder’s (Daughters of the World, 2014, etc.) thriller, sex-trafficking mobsters and U.S. authorities threaten a secret group that specializes in administering justice for violated women.

Sandra Neuermann is raped and narrowly escapes her assailants, who likely would have killed her. Cops apprehend the two men, but the arrest is thrown out on a technicality. This makes Neuermann a perfect recruit for Nemesis, a covert organization (of mostly women) that helps rape victims and targets those attackers who’ve escaped punishment. Neuermann trains as a Fury, a field operative, going after and sometimes killing rapists as well as sex traffickers, like an Albanian Mafia family in New York. However, Nemesis’ full-on assault against said family may be drawing too much attention from both gangsters and the alphabet soup of U.S. agencies, who’ve noticed that a lot of baddies have been disappearing. Elder’s thriller highlights a group of female agents without turning the idea into a gimmick. The women are undeniably formidable with guns, fisticuffs, or at a computer: Bridget O’Rourke “tapped her keyboard and the engines in the Mercedes and the Range Rover died. The doors locked, and the occupants heard a loud pop. It was the last thing they heard as the canisters released a knockout gas.” The villains are a largely rotten bunch, seemingly deserving of their fate at the business end of a Sig or sniper rifle. Yet Elder deepens his story by addressing the inevitable fallout: one Fury in particular is devastated when she has to kill an innocent bystander simply because he could have identified her later. Nemesis Director Jeanne Mooth, too, prides herself on the organization’s hovering under the radar—something that’s increasingly difficult to accomplish when it’s abundantly clear to all interested parties that someone is specifically targeting the Albanian mob’s brothels. Neuermann is a well-established protagonist who starts a relationship with handsome, kindhearted teacher Daniel, which may explain her gradual aversion to killing and preference for less-personal strikes against sex-trafficking groups. Unfortunately, other Furies don’t receive as much characterization. Many are relegated to Nemesis reports; Jane and Arlene, for example, first appear as names in their filed paperwork, merely to introduce (and close) the latest rapist’s case. The ending may shock more than a few readers, but it definitely packs a dramatic punch.

An assassin story that delivers action while shrewdly examining the consequences.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2016

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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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