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PALE HORSE COMING

A case of a successful formula overworked. The result? The pacing slackens noticeably, and the writing, particularly the...

The Hunter assembly line cranks out another of his gunzapoppin’ thrillers.

With a nod to Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes, Hunter has his stalwart ex-Marine and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Earl Swagger (Hot Springs, 2000, etc.) recruit seven legendary gun-hands to join him in one of those dirty jobs somebody has to do. The time is 1951, and the remote, unbelievably savage Thebes Prison Farm lies half-buried in a Mississippi swamp. How Earl managed to become incarcerated in this place of lost souls is a twisting tale rooted in an American samurai's inflexible code. Never betray a friendship: words Earl lives by, and when Sam Vincent fails to return from a certain mysterious mission Earl knows he has no choice but to find him, free him, and restore him to the bosom of his family. Which he does. Breaking Sam out of Thebes, however, proves no better than an even exchange. A sadistic sheriff, a conscienceless warden, and a band of corrupt, black-hearted minions now have Earl in their clutches, a prospect filling them with delight. (Think imbecilic boys pulling wings off flies.) Relentlessly—and, ugh, gratuitously—they torture him within an inch of his life. But Earl being Earl, he survives and eventually escapes. No way, he decides grimly, that a hellhole like Thebes can be left to its own devices and sets about assembling his crack demolition force: seven storied, if grizzled, gunslingers, old-timers, but still as lethal as ever they were. They strike at night, kill in bunches, and when—the smoke having cleared—the geezer brigade lowers Colts, Winchesters, Thompsons, etc., Thebes once again is history.

A case of a successful formula overworked. The result? The pacing slackens noticeably, and the writing, particularly the dialogue, can seem downright slapdash.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2001

ISBN: 0-684-86361-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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