With Muñoz so fully drawn, it will be a pleasure to learn his fate.

READ REVIEW

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

PURSUIT OF AN ANTARCTIC KILLER

Cohen (Frozen in Time, 2010) tenders part two of his murder and grand-theft trilogy, a fictionalized story inspired by real events.

The loot that was stolen in the first installment of this series—millions in cash, gold coins and jewelry that two Chilean Navy seamen absconded with after being assigned to guard a bank damaged during Chile’s great earthquake of 1960—continues to leave death in its wake as the action shifts from Antarctica to Chile. The goods are now in the hands of Cap. Roberto Muñoz, also of the Chilean Navy, who dispatches the previous owners in a grizzly but very neatly organized murder, detailed with significant brio by Cohen in the novel’s opening pages. Unfortunately for Muñoz, he has come under the suspicion of his old friend, Cap. Mateo Valderas, and his young sidekick in Internal Affairs, Lt.-Cmdr. Antonio Del Rio. Muñoz and Valderas had been at the naval academy together and knew each other’s minds fairly well, so the stage is set for a leisurely if menacing game of cat and mouse, with Muñoz staying a step ahead of the investigators while taunting Valderas with little clues in the form of rare and valuable coins (Valderas is a numismatics buff). Cohen keeps Valderas in hot pursuit, and there are moments when it appears that Muñoz might be too smart for his own good, but he never surrenders any hard evidence. The extended dialogues between Valderas and Del Rio occasionally lapse into a staged feeling, though they also work well in charting the connections between the dots. Where Cohen fully succeeds is in drawing the complexity of Muñoz’s character. The man is a thief and a murderer and a bully, and Cohen doesn’t let the reader forget that. Yet there is also decency lurking in his designs, and an appealing sense of honor, enough to spark moments of admiration, even as he sits on the beach in Ipanema, stealing looks at his “$50,000 Patek Philippe 18K yellow-gold Genève wrist watch.”

With Muñoz so fully drawn, it will be a pleasure to learn his fate.

Pub Date: July 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-1452061788

Page Count: 252

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2010

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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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