More cleverly plotted suspense reliably anchored by a dogged heroine with verve to spare.

The Capricorn Kidnapping

In this energetic third book in the Astrology Mystery series, the story centers on missing children and an illegal adoption ring.  

The latest installment reunites ambitious, dedicated, motorcycle-riding probation officer Christian Vargas with her “charismatic Chicano” partner, Daniel O’Callahan, both hard on the trail of nefarious human traffickers responsible for three separate child abduction cases. Vargas, ignoring the warnings of the department head who vouched for her on a former tricky case, jumps (secretly) at the chance to participate in yet another investigation. She sees it as part of an effort to curb crime in a community battered by a string of senseless gang murders. Complicating matters is the fact that Daniel still carries a torch for Vargas, though their previous dalliance is far from her mind these days. She’s busy contemplating the varying aspects of the case, confiding in her therapist, Sophia, and wading through disappearance databases. Vargas’ uncanny powers of intuition, and her learned knack for “offender profiling” and immersive sleuthing, bring her and Daniel face to face with a group of illegal adoption agents from a thriving, violent 10-year-old network of child abductors. Moments of levity arise from scenes involving their inquisitive visit to a backwoods redneck enclave searching for clues and a humorous marriage-of-convenience ceremony that’s necessary to infiltrate the ring. Otherwise it’s business as usual as the challenges continue to mount for the partners, whether they’re rushing to make a collar before the case cools off or battling bureaucratic red tape amid a re-election season. Meanwhile, pregnant, troubled teenager Karma Caligan appeals to Vargas, her probation officer, for a place to stay until she delivers but ends up way over her head. Between Vargas resisting the eager advancements of her boss and the exciting and erotic developments in her and Daniel’s relationship, interpersonal entanglements threaten to overshadow the mystery itself. And indeed, bittersweet conclusion aside, O’Rorke (The Killer of Cancer Rising, 2015, etc.) drags out the mystery for a bit longer than necessary. Yet with a 97 percent conviction rate, Vargas remains an investigator to be reckoned with in this superbly rousing tale. Series fans: a fourth installment is exclusively teased at the book’s conclusion.

More cleverly plotted suspense reliably anchored by a dogged heroine with verve to spare.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Strategic

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2016

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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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