A heady thriller that gathers force with the understated menace of a tidal wave, then smashes home.



In this debut medical thriller, a pair of Afghanistan War vets investigates mysterious deaths at a research center developing a new rabies vaccine.

Two and a half years ago, in the desert outside Kandahar, a bomb blast rocked the mobile communications van run by Capt. Alton Blackwell of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Only he and Sgt. Zach Lambert, who was off shift at the time, survived. Working through physical therapy, Alton healed with a limp. Reassignment to desk duty in Kabul’s Command and Control division should have been torture, but his friendship with military accountant Mallory Wilson kept him optimistic. Now, Alton and Zach work in Georgia for the telecom security firm Kruptos Inc., and Mallory works for the FBI in Washington, D.C. She and Alton don’t reunite until strange cases of hemophilia—a bleeding disorder—break out near the Georgia-North Carolina border. Zach, who goes camping in the quiet, supposedly secluded area, discovers the source firsthand; scientists from Research Triangle Park spray him with the airborne—as well as still experimental and potentially deadly—Rabinil vaccine. With a craving for justice, Alton the cryptographer and Mallory the forensic accountant team up to investigate the fallout. They follow winding paper and electronic trails while dodging agents with a murderous agenda. Readers will be absorbed by Freeman’s never-flashy expertise: “I have a ‘rabbit hole’ application that...bounces your [laptop’s] signal all over the planet and...renders our current location untraceable for a little while.” The motives of scientists and federal employees are tightly interlocked, and humor peppers their conversations. For instance, when a man named Perkins says that Mallory is cute, Alton says, “No, she isn’t your type.” “What is her type, bro?” Perkins asks, to which Alton replies, “Intelligent.” Occasionally, superb touches of eeriness creep in: “dried leaves blowing across the parking lot began to form patterns, and the details of the investigation soon filled his mind.” One minor failing, however, is that Freeman introduces his principal characters primarily by telling readers about them rather than using dialogue and plot to flesh them out.

A heady thriller that gathers force with the understated menace of a tidal wave, then smashes home.

Pub Date: March 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482048469

Page Count: 174

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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