A smart and fast-paced crime drama that will leave readers wanting more from this author.

WAGEREASY

A debut thriller set in the shady world of gambling in Chicago.

Farrell’s novel starts off in 2018 at the scene of a gruesome crime. In a cold, abandoned Chicago factory, a small-time gambler has been found dead, with his partially burnt body hanging from a web of ropes. Private investigator Eddie O’Connell is on the scene as a guest of his Uncle Mike, a retired homicide detective whose old partner, Liz, is in charge of the murder investigation. Liz invited the O’Connells to the crime scene because she respects Uncle Mike’s experience and Eddie’s instincts—even though Uncle Mike left the force after an “Internal Affairs inquiry had left a sour taste in his mouth” and Eddie is basically “a bartender with a start-up PI business and a gambling debt.” (Both men also sometimes do occasional investigative jobs for a shady crime boss named Rosario Burrascano.) Eddie suspects that Liz asked them to visit this crime scene because she thinks it might have an organized crime connection; he finds out, however, that he has a personal connection to the case himself: He knows the dead man—or rather, he knew him. He and Jimmy “the Leech” Golding were old comrades at the track, where they spent a lot of time betting on horses. He soon realizes, however, how little he really knew about his pal Jimmy: “We were the kings of the racetrack, and I didn’t learn his full name until last night when they zipped up the body bag.”

The author smoothly and confidently deepens the story, which involves a tangle of conflicting loyalties. As the violence of the so-called Blowtorch Murders increases, Liz comes under intense pressure from her department and the FBI to make faster progress—but because of Mike’s murky connection to Burrascano, she’s forced to keep him at arm’s length from the official investigation. Mike has his own resources in his old department (“loyalties ran deep and Mike O’Connell had helped a lot of officers on the way up the ladder”), but it’s Eddie’s intensifying personal connection to the crimes that forms the true backbone of the book. This can be to the book’s detriment, at times, because it results in no other character being as well developed as Eddie is. However, Farrell also beautifully realizes the setting of Chicago in winter, which helps to enhance the procedural elements of the story. He skillfully unfolds the complicated tale as Eddie delves deeper into the underworld and finds out how it intersects with the impending legalization of sports betting in Illinois. The novel presents a bleak landscape of rival gangs always looking to double-cross one another as well as a memorably startling characterization of the Chicago police and court system. Eddie is just the right kind of noble but flawed hero to travel between the two realms, and Farrell crafts an array of familiar and unfamiliar genre elements into a genuinely gripping read.

A smart and fast-paced crime drama that will leave readers wanting more from this author.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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