A promising beginning devolves into a clichéd second half.



Two men—one aided by a supernatural demon—seek retribution for the death of a loved one in Irish’s fourth novel (The Golden Goose of Los Angeles Extended Edition, 2014).

This is a tale of two stories. The first part revolves around the failure of fathers. Jacob Calbraw, the wealthy son of billionaire Earl Calbraw, spends his life trying to destroy his father’s plans at every opportunity, for Jacob blames his father for the death of his mother when he was an infant. Meanwhile, another father named Kelvin fails to protect his allergic son from eating nuts at a sporting event; he plots murderous revenge on the wealthy who made him frantically rush about the stadium futilely seeking a lifesaving EpiPen. However, when Earl Calbraw is shot midway through the novel, the story shifts its primary focus to Jacob, who has been inhabited by an evil demon named Thretch that infuses him with extraordinary fighting abilities. Jacob cuts a bloody path of destruction in his quest to discover what became of his mother. There’s a lot to like in the novel’s first part. Irish is at his best portraying the inner feelings of Jacob, Kelvin, and Earl, particularly Earl’s contriteness over his past life as well as Kelvin’s chilling search for medical help for his dying boy and the indifference he meets. However, the story deals in clichés when Thretch becomes more of a main character and Irish strives mightily to turn the story into A Very Important Book. The demon is a bombastic bore, full of statements such as “I am thrust upon you like a queen among ants.” Readers have probably seen it before—demonic possession by an ancient evil—and the second half of the book turns into a stale series of fights between Jacob and Thretch and those in Jacob’s way. Irish has a tendency to say something first—“the enraged father’s mind is now exploding with unscrupulous thoughts”—then show it, in this case, the unscrupulous thoughts. Despite the flaws, there are flashes of excellence that help illustrate how a father doesn’t always know best.

A promising beginning devolves into a clichéd second half.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1507506493

Page Count: 608

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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