A smart, layered spy thriller.

Vile Means

Dimodica (Covert Matters, 2015, etc.) crafts an intricately plotted spy game.

In 1999, Norris Stanton is a wealthy recluse and a survivor of the Nazi regime who now masterfully manipulates world currency markets. He also exploits Panama’s Colón Free Trade Zone and canal to make billions, then funnels all the profits to the Israeli Mossad. But as the official handoff of the canal from the United States to Panama approaches, Norris’ scheme is in jeopardy. He puts in a call to Tel Aviv for his marker, and the Mossad hatches a plot to destabilize Panama with a Serbian psychopath, who sets about forming a ragtag army of peasants to terrorize the country “for a taste of power, money, and a sense of belonging.” The goal is to lure the United States into an invasion to protect their ally and the all-important canal. When the CIA begins receiving reports from Panama of rape, torture, and murder by members of a new revolutionary movement, they send a “blind team” in country to do reconnaissance and report back. Dimodica, a former Special Forces and military intelligence operative, is good at setting the stage, and although the plot is complicated, it’s structured well enough to avoid confusion. However, the author’s habitual use of short, choppy paragraphs sometimes interferes with the narrative flow as the multinational narrative jumps from time zone to time zone. The pace is brisk and steady at the beginning, and again during the climax and denouement, but lags in the middle third; however, the ending is touching and satisfying. Dimodica’s characters are surprisingly well-developed for the genre and mostly portrayed sympathetically, with the exception of the monstrous Serb—but even he gets a back story revealing his motivations. Dimodica even waxes poetic at times: “Twilight is a time for artists, painters, photographers, and romantics. It is also the time of professional soldiers.” He also brings knowledge and experience to the story when depicting political machinations and explaining operational tactics, and he provides historical, cultural, and sociological context from the Oval Office to the Panamanian jungle.

A smart, layered spy thriller.

Pub Date: April 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5301-4063-3

Page Count: 392

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 21, 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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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.


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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