A deceptively slim yet viciously potent slice of female retribution.

SPIRIT LAKE PAYBACK

A group of wronged women takes female empowerment to the extreme in this novel.

As he did in Prisoners of War (2018), Scott taps into American history to roll out a complex yarn that begins during World War II. Mildred Mercer is a teenage prostitute in Dorris, California, in the mid-1940s who is swept away from her downtrodden existence by Pat McBride, a generous soul who buys her a bus ticket to Seattle to start a new life. Headstrong and independent, Millie catches the eye of neighbor Duano Lagomarsino, and a courtship simmers quickly into marriage and a relocation to Bayview, Idaho. Their marriage (and much of the other subplots) hinges on what the author calls “life’s little curve balls,” and soon, Millie’s former occupation comes back to haunt her. But her fierce sense of self-preservation kicks in. This story is joined by the tale of Eleanor Greenberg, whose family is sent to Auschwitz. She is separated from her loved ones to become the pre-pubescent obsession of a Nazi scientist who sexually abuses her. Upon her escape to a kibbutz overlooking the Sea of Galilee, she promises her captor they will reunite one day. The scientist later becomes a United States Navy researcher in Idaho searching for Nazi sympathizers but winds up face to face with “patient huntress” Eleanor. Boosting this plotline are the period details Scott homes in on, such as the price of housing and the apprehensive nature of a traumatized society during wartime. Adding to this melodrama is the intriguing tale of Bernadette Albers, the fifth victim of a serial bigamist con man who “specialized in middle-aged women of questionable beauty.” Bernadette is, like the wives before her, double-crossed and swindled by her duplicitous husband, Randall, but vows to end his string of misdeeds permanently. All of these searing sketches coalesce in Northern Idaho, where the timeline advances to the mid-’90s as the skeletal remains of nine bodies are discovered at the bottom of Spirit Lake. Readers will easily identify those remains and connect them to the men’s cutthroat fates. The sheer brevity of Scott’s novel belies the heft of its central theme about the resurgence of the past and how it can lead to both a painful reunion and an opportunity to avenge atrocities and festering wounds.

A deceptively slim yet viciously potent slice of female retribution.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 108

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2020

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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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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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