Berry sticks to his successful but bland fact-and-fantasy format.

THE CHARLEMAGNE PURSUIT

Secret-agent-turned-bookseller Cotton Malone searches for the truth about his father’s death; uncovers revelations about a brilliant early civilization spurned by the Nazis; and earns the enmity of an endlessly evil admiral.

Our manly middle-aged recurring hero (The Venetian Betrayal, 2007, etc.) barely remembers his father, a naval officer whose submarine sank without a trace in 1971 when Malone was just ten, but he’s got a line on the truth about that sinking, an incident the Navy has covered up to the present day. Malone’s ex-boss Stephanie Nelle discharges a debt by producing a top-secret report on the sinking, long kept buried by Adm. Langford Ramsey, chief of naval intelligence. In the way of thrillers, Malone must receive the report at a tram stop high in the Alps and villains must immediately try to snatch it back, forcing him to toss a bad man from a moving ski lift and to beat a bad woman within an inch of her life. Within hours, Malone becomes involved with a Bavarian billionaire family, the Oberhausers, whose patriarchs believed that the emperor Charlemagne and his trusty lieutenant Einhard were chums with the Watchers, survivors of a brilliant civilization that had its peak long before the pyramids. Hard-bitten matriarch Isabel Oberhauser and her beautiful but fatally conflicted twin daughters, Christl and Dorothea, are interested in the secret report because the twins’ dad was also on that submarine, which went missing not in the Atlantic, as promulgated by the Navy, but off Antarctica, where the Watchers’ civilization had its heyday. Meanwhile, back in the United States, Adm. Ramsey, who knows everything about that ancient society, has dispatched his favorite hired killer to create an opening at the top of the naval structure and sent another underling to eliminate Malone and the Oberhausers. Thank goodness we have a shrewd president.

Berry sticks to his successful but bland fact-and-fantasy format.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-48579-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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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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