A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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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. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Like the Oregon itself, this novel is fast-moving, implausible, and fun.

CLIVE CUSSLER'S HELLBURNER

This is the 16th installment of the action-packed Oregon Files series.

The mercenary Juan Cabrillo and his dedicated Oregon crew confront a ship carrying contraband, which leads to uncovering the Pipeline, a massive smuggling enterprise. As the series’ fans know, the Oregon is a 590-foot “rust bucket tramp steamer” on the outside and a technological marvel on the inside. It can zip like a speedboat and even change colors. The primary antagonists are two businessmen named Hakobyan and Katrakis, one Armenian and the other Greek, who have known each other for more than 50 years. Their Pipeline is a conduit for transporting arms, munitions, and meth, making it “the envy of the criminal world.” Now the Armenian has a plan to achieve “wealth beyond imagination” and avenge the genocide of Armenians by Turks in the process. They will steal a 100-megaton bomb and explode it underwater in the Bosporus to cause a tsunami that will “drown sixteen million dirty Turks in a flood of their own radioactive bathwater.” And it will happen when POTUS and the Turkish president are in Istanbul. Then Turkey will blame Russia and go to war, dragging in NATO. World War III will ensue, and badda-bing-badda-boom, the old crooks will become richer than Croesus by—um, who knows—rebuilding atop the rubble, apparently. Their plan does seem to have a few holes. Cabrillo and crew get wind of the nuclear-tipped torpedo, and of course the clock is ticking. Spectacular fighting scenes ensue, with ex-SEAL Cabrillo displaying tenacity and skill worthy of the best fictional heroes. While the evildoer Hakobyan will “do business with the Devil himself if it turned a profit,” Cabrillo will never do anything against American interests. Even his prosthetic leg deserves honorable mention for its unexpected utility in combat. The name Hellburner occurs twice near the end and is not integral to the storyline, but it makes for a good title.

Like the Oregon itself, this novel is fast-moving, implausible, and fun.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-54064-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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