Swift, unsentimental, and deeply satisfying. Liam Neeson would be perfect in the title role.

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THE OLD MAN

Perry (Forty Thieves, 2016, etc.) drives deep into Jack Reacher territory in this stand-alone about a long-ago Army intelligence officer whose less-than-grateful nation just won’t let him be.

Dispatched to Libya a generation ago to deliver $20 million to Faris Hamzah for distribution to rebel fighters, Michael Kohler watched as Hamzah sat on the money, purchasing a Rolls-Royce, financing a cadre of personal bodyguards, and doing everything except pass the bundle to the intended recipients. So Kohler grabbed the rest of the money and hightailed it back to the USA. His offers to return the money to the National Security Agency fell on the deaf ears of bureaucrats who informed him that he was a wanted criminal who’d better turn himself in and face the music. So Kohler went off the grid as Dan Chase, of Norwich, Vermont, invested the money cautiously, and set up several false identities, just in case. Ten years after his wife died, his past catches up with him in the shape of two Arab-looking men who break into his house while he’s supposed to be asleep. After taking care of business with brutal efficiency, he goes on the lam once more. As Peter Caldwell he drives to Chicago, where he meets Zoe McDonald, who’s quickly drawn to him. They make some sweet memories together as Henry and Marcia Dixon; then it’s time once more for Henry to leave. Julian Carson, the special ops contractor assigned to locate Dixon and set him up for the kill, ends up sympathizing with him instead—especially after he helps arrange the return of the $20 million and sees that it doesn’t lessen the pressure on Dixon—and passes on the information that allows the Dixons to escape, though it doesn’t exactly feel like an escape to Marcia. They retreat to an isolated cabin in Big Bear; Carson quits the assignment and marries his Arkansas sweetheart. Both men wait for the inevitable, and in the fullness of time, it arrives with guns ablaze.

Swift, unsentimental, and deeply satisfying. Liam Neeson would be perfect in the title role.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2586-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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