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ESPIONAGE

REGIME CHANGE

From the A Psychic CIA Novel series , Vol. 1

A sublime, diverting hybrid-genre tale with chic supernatural powers and series potential.

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Former psychic agents band together to thwart assassins targeting them—and world leaders—in Easton and Wu’s SF thriller.

Gabriel Thomas was certain that he and his friend, Bernarde Cardonne, were the only mind-readers left. Both of these men, now senior citizens, once worked for intelligence agencies: Gabriel for the CIA and Bernarde for France’s DGSE. But the peace of their relatively quiet lives (they own and run a French restaurant called Chez Bernie in Washington, D.C.) is shattered by the sudden presence of other psychics. Gabriel meets an apparently friendly one named Katrinka Kharatyan, a Russian who initially contacts him via coded text messages. On the global stage, world leaders are dying; the deaths initially seem natural but are later deemed assassinations when more overt attempts are made against American politicians, including the president. The CIA wants to “re-establish” the psychic team, which may be the reason the assassins eventually train their sights on the mind-readers; now, Gabriel, Katrinka, and Bernarde are in danger, along with Colin Visnic, a teenage guitarist, and Calli Maduro, a woman who previously used her skills in the service of a Mexican federal agency. After the group survives an attack, Quentin Gibson, Gabriel’s ex-boss at the CIA, suggests using Chez Bernie as a “listening post and base of operations.” It’s there that they fight off all sorts of threats, from character assassination to the more traditional variety, leveled against political figures and the psychics themselves. Meanwhile, their adversaries regularly meet and grow increasingly determined to take out their targets as they work to implement a long-brewing plan that they believe will be their “crowning achievement,” regardless of who stands in their way.

Easton and Wu generate a brisk, entertaining fusion of supernatural and espionage thrillers. The narrative perspective hops around the sprightly cast, highlighting the former mind-reader agents, the baddies incessantly dreaming up schemes, and the FBI agents desperate to protect sensitive information that’s been “leaking like a sieve.” The psychics are a likable bunch; two of them spin off into an enjoyably subtle romance and a few come with engaging backstories (Katrinka first meets fellow mind-reader Calli in a cooking class). While most of the psychics wield telepathy, Katrinka also has a limited telekinetic power. But it’s her other ability—she glimpses the future—that imbues the story with beaucoup suspense. On the spy front, there are welcome genre trademarks, including a double-cross, enemy agents that aren’t easy to spot, and an alarming lack of privacy (surveillance drones constantly hover). In keeping with the story’s unwavering pace, faux newspaper articles aptly sum up the public’s ever-changing opinions as events unfold. The authors craft a final act that boasts a solid resolution, though the book ends with a hint that a sequel will follow. 
A sublime, diverting hybrid-genre tale with chic supernatural powers and series potential.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2023

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Amazing Selects,

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2023

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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YOU'D LOOK BETTER AS A GHOST

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.

Dexter meets Killing Eve in Wallace’s dark comic thriller debut.

While accepting condolences following her father’s funeral, 30-something narrator Claire receives an email saying that one of her paintings is a finalist for a prize. But her joy is short-circuited the next morning when she learns in a second apologetic note that the initial email had been sent to the wrong Claire. The sender, Lucas Kane, is “terribly, terribly sorry” for his mistake. Claire, torn between her anger and suicidal thoughts, has doubts about his sincerity and stalks him to a London pub, where his fate is sealed: “I stare at Lucas Kane in real life, and within moments I know. He doesn’t look sorry.” She dispatches and buries Lucas in her back garden, but this crime does not go unnoticed. Proud of her meticulous standards as a serial killer, Claire wonders if her grief for her father is making her reckless as she seeks to identify the blackmailer among the members of her weekly bereavement support group. The female serial killer as antihero is a growing subgenre (see Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, 2018), and Wallace’s sociopathic protagonist is a mordantly amusing addition; the tool she uses to interact with ordinary people while hiding her homicidal nature is especially sardonic: “Whenever I’m unsure of how I’m expected to respond, I use a cliché. Even if I’m not sure what it means, even if I use it incorrectly, no one ever seems to mind.” The well-written storyline tackles some tough subjects—dementia, elder abuse, and parental cruelty—but the convoluted plot starts to drag at the halfway point. Given the lack of empathy in Claire’s narration, most of the characters come across as not very likable, and the reader tires of her sneering contempt.

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780143136170

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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