Despite more complications than a 12-month pregnancy, there’s less suspense here than in a three-minute egg.

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WILD CARD

As if to prove that the relative success of Stone Barrington’s most recent thriller (A Delicate Touch, 2018) was a fluke, Woods drags back the surviving baddies for a limp sequel that proves mainly that enough is enough.

The case against Rance Damien, horribly scarred but not killed by the fire that resulted when Stone’s techie, Bob Cantor, blew up the control center of the nefarious H. Thomas & Sons Bank, has fallen apart because all the incriminating records of Damien and bank patriarch Henry Thomas’ malfeasance were destroyed in the blaze. So Damien’s out of jail and intent on getting revenge against Stone. It’s a fool’s errand, as any one of the dozens of criminal masterminds who’ve tried to kill the cop-turned-lawyer-turned–conspicuous consumer could have warned him, because the professional killers hired to eliminate him will always miss whatever they aim at, often killing someone else instead and leaving their target “peacefully in the knowledge that neither of the two men shot in the ass was himself.” The stakes are raised, though the tension isn’t increased an iota, when Thomas and Damien decide to back the presidential campaign of Florida Republican Sen. Joseph Box, whose likely opponent is Secretary of State Holly Barker, one of Stone’s bevy of ex-lovers. Overnight Box begins to talk like less of a blooming idiot thanks to the ministrations of Harvard-trained speechwriter Ari Kramer. As if he’s not smarting enough already, Damien soon learns that Thomas’ secretary Elise Grant, getting wind of her bosses’ murderous schemes, defects to Stone, whose current inamorata, New York Times reporter Jamie Cox, publishes a blistering takedown of H. Thomas & Sons just as they’re about to be acquired by an equally conscience-free hedge fund. Will this be the time that Stone and his team finally go too far? Of course it won’t.

Despite more complications than a 12-month pregnancy, there’s less suspense here than in a three-minute egg.

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1928-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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