Beneath the sky-high body count, the twisty plot is powered by Perry’s relentless focus on the question of where the next...

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THE INFORMANT

Twenty years after a trio of lowlifes forced him out of retirement (Sleeping Dogs, 1992, etc.), the Butcher’s Boy is back.

When you’re a professional killer who works freelance, your employers are likely to include a large number of nasty guys. So it’s not clear to Perry’s nameless hero, who started calling himself Michael Schaeffer when he moved to England and settled in Bath as the husband of Lady Margaret Holroyd, which of his former associates sent the three men who inadvertently flushed him out of hiding and then tried to kill him. He has no trouble tracing the three to midlevel New York capo Michael Delamina, whom he kills on page two. In order to identify Delamina’s boss, however, he has to consult his old nemesis, Elizabeth Waring of the Justice Department. Taking a leaf from Hannibal Lecter’s playbook, he urges her, “Tell me, and I’ll tell you something.” When Elizabeth fingers rising under-boss Frank Tosca as Schaeffer’s next target, he gives her some juicy information on an old Tosca murder in return. But although “he had never failed to accomplish his goal when all it entailed was killing someone,” her news comes too late to help. By the time Schaeffer kills Tosca, the ambitious under-boss has convened a sit-down in which his counterparts from across the country have agreed to join his vendetta against the Butcher’s Boy—a goal Tosca’s death only makes them more eager to pursue. For her part, Elizabeth is so determined to bring Schaeffer into the Witness Protection Program as the ultimate informant that she’s willing offer him a series of unauthorized deals, which of course he spurns. Schaeffer is squeezed between two collective adversaries with virtually unlimited personnel and resources. On the other hand, only Schaeffer is the Butcher’s Boy.

Beneath the sky-high body count, the twisty plot is powered by Perry’s relentless focus on the question of where the next threat is coming from and how to survive it.

Pub Date: May 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-56933-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Otto Penzler/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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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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