Jane has so little trouble breaking James Shelby, framed for murdering his wife, out of police custody at the Clara...

POISON FLOWER

Jane Whitefield’s latest attempt to hide someone other people are looking for puts her in even more danger than usual, and that’s not easy.

Jane has so little trouble breaking James Shelby, framed for murdering his wife, out of police custody at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles that you just know something’s going to go wrong. But the mishap this time is remarkably fast and unexpected: Three hard types who’ve been tracking Shelby go after Jane instead. Driving her to a remote desert location, they torture her seeking information about her client, then realize that they can make a queen’s ransom by auctioning her off to one of the many criminals she’s outwitted by spiriting away their victims or enemies and settling them in new identities (Runner, 2009, etc.). Jane manages to escape and takes refuge in a battered women’s shelter in Las Vegas, where she acquires yet another fugitive who must be hidden away. (“I guess I have a knack for making friends” is her laconic comment.) It would be unfair to reveal more about a story whose appeal depends so completely on Perry’s ability to keep you from seeing a single inch around the next corner. Suffice it to say that both Jane and the fake cops will put a great many more miles on vehicles they’ve rented or stolen before Jane confronts the brains behind the frame-up of Shelby in the nation’s heartland in a satisfyingly one-dimensional showdown.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2605-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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A high-fatality, low-octane procedural that has its points but lacks the wow factor. Bring back Lucas Davenport.

DARK OF THE MOON

Virgil Flowers, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator introduced as a sidekick to Lucas Davenport in Invisible Prey (2007), gets a death-enriched case of his own.

In a little town like Bluestem, everybody knows everybody’s business, and what everybody knows these days is that everybody’s getting killed. The flagship victim is Bill Judd, 82, the wealthy lawyer/banker/trader who made enemies right and left with a Jerusalem artichoke pyramid scheme 20 years ago. He’s an obvious target for the methodical arsonist who burned down his house with him inside. But the other victims are much more inoffensive: ancient physician Russell Gleason and his wife, retired Stark County sheriff Roman Schmidt and his wife. The current sheriff, Jimmy Stryker, doesn’t mind working with a BCA type like Virgil. He doesn’t even mind the sidelong gazes Virgil casts at his recently divorced sister, Joan Carson. And he brings up his share of promising ideas about the case, which involves money laundering, a meth lab, a surprise claimant to the Judd estate and a truly nasty man of the cloth. But could he be the target of his own manhunt? The advanced age of the victims makes Virgil think that the crimes could have deep roots—maybe as deep as a “man on the moon” party Bill Judd hosted back in 1969. Sadly, it seems to take another 38 years for Virgil and company, making endless rounds of Bluestem to ask really obvious questions, to close the case. The pace is so much slower than when Davenport is in charge that you may wonder if Virgil, a perfectly reasonable hero, is under sedation. It’s not until the Acknowledgments, which are deferred till the end of the story, that this last and deepest mystery is cleared up.

A high-fatality, low-octane procedural that has its points but lacks the wow factor. Bring back Lucas Davenport.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-399-15477-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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