As usual (The Queen of Patpong, 2010, etc.), the real star of the show is the hero’s hometown. As Rafferty observes,...

THE FEAR ARTIST

A dead man who crumples onto his lap pulls travel writer Poke Rafferty once more down into Bangkok’s dank underbelly.

In an uncharacteristic burst of domestic energy, Rafferty is just emerging from a store, lugging cans of paint destined for the walls of the apartment he shares with his wife, Rose, and their adopted daughter, Miaow, when he collides first with a crowd of pedestrians streaming down the road, then with an American gent who collapses on top of him, recovers just enough to say, “Helen Eckersley. Cheyenne,” and dies. Police deny that the American was shot, ascribe the copious blood on the scene to a nosebleed, and take Rafferty in. Questioned by the distinctly hostile Maj. Shen, Rafferty inconveniently forgets the name the dying American was at such pains to get out. It’s a costly gap in his story, one that brings down the wrath of Shen and sends police to ransack his place and frame him for the murder of a stranger whose name he still doesn’t know. Forced to send Rose and Miaow into hiding and to go on the run himself in the city he’s made his home, Rafferty gets help from his friends Arthit, a recently widowed police officer, and Dr. Ratt, who hides him from official scrutiny in a truly ingenious way. But in order to get the goods on Haskell Murphy, the ex-soldier he’s convinced is behind the murder, Rafferty will have to deal with the world’s most untrustworthy trio of spies, delve into a particularly ugly chapter in the Vietnam War and take some hellacious chances with his personal safety.

As usual (The Queen of Patpong, 2010, etc.), the real star of the show is the hero’s hometown. As Rafferty observes, “Bangkok may not be glamorous…but it’s got lurid down cold.”

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61695-112-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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