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THE BETTER LIAR

A blistering debut from a promising new talent.

A darkly complex relationship between two sisters lies at the heart of Jones’ debut psychological thriller.

Leslie Flores has a problem. For the past seven years, she's taken care of her father as he wasted away from thyroid cancer in New Mexico. Now that he’s died, Leslie must sort out his estate by herself since her younger sister, Robin, fled the family home a decade ago, when she was 16, checking in only when she needed money—which her father, to Leslie's frustration, would send her. But it turns out that their father split the $100,000 he left behind between Leslie and Robin, saying they would have to appear together at his lawyer's office in Albuquerque to collect it. Leslie needs that money and is determined to get it at any cost, and she manages to track Robin down. Her plan to bring her sister home hits a snag, though, when she finds Robin’s body in her squalid rented room in Las Vegas. Instead of calling the authorities, Leslie leaves the scene. A possible solution to Leslie’s new problem arrives in the form of waitress/aspiring actress Mary, whom Leslie meets outside a Vegas restaurant. They strike up a conversation, which eventually leads to a proposition. Mary looks a bit like Robin, so Leslie asks her to put her acting skills to good use and pose as Robin to help her collect the inheritance, offering Mary half the money for her trouble. One dye job later and Mary, posing as Robin, accompanies Leslie to Albuquerque to meet her husband, Dave, and their little boy, Eli. Leslie’s scheme should go off without a hitch, but she didn’t count on the dangerously magnetic and quietly cunning Mary using her new persona to dig into Robin’s life (and then some), Leslie’s marriage…and her secrets. Readers also get a disturbing look at the sisters’ strange bond and the circumstances surrounding their mother’s death. Of particular note is Jones’ depiction of how Leslie’s relationship with her troubled mother indelibly influenced how she relates to Eli. A nicely noir, if not completely surprising, couple of twists round out this feverish thriller.

A blistering debut from a promising new talent.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984821-22-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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