A searing mystery with a superlative gun-toting protagonist.

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In the first installment of Hammond (KOP Killer, 2016, etc.) and Viola’s (Blackstar, 2015, etc.) new sci-fi series, a detective on Mars searches for her grandfather, who she thought died 20 years ago.

Human Denver Moon, 31, is a first-generation Martian—born on the Mars colony that her late grandfather Tatsuo co-founded. Her current investigation involves an outbreak of red fever, a mysterious sickness that often turns the infected into raving, homicidal lunatics. In just the last two days, “the feve” has inexplicably targeted 11 of Mars’ original settlers. She works the case with her always-accommodating artificial-intelligence system, Smith, which Denver long ago gave Tatsuo’s memories. Smith discovers an encrypted message from her grandfather, declaring that Mars is in danger and urging his granddaughter to find him. His former partner, Cole Hennessey, the Founder and Peerless Leader of the Church of Mars, insists that he witnessed Tatsuo’s death personally. A skeptical Denver investigates, beginning by having Smith hack into Jericho, the local terraforming project, to scan the red planet for places where her grandfather may have hidden himself for two decades. She’s clearly making someone nervous, though, as she later narrowly avoids a murder attempt. As Denver digs deeper, she gradually exposes a conspiracy that could affect all of Mars’ inhabitants. This short novel boasts prime sci-fi tech ingredients; for example, Denver mentally converses with Smith, which she’s installed in her gun, and she also gets assistance from Nigel, a botsie (robot). The mystery is packed with sometimes-dubious characters. Denver is the most colorful, even if she is totally colorblind—a hereditary trait that makes her immune to red fever. Smith, however, is also engaging, particularly in its hints of human qualities, such as a preference for leather holsters. Sparkling prose animates the inanimate throughout: “One of the freezer chest’s hinges tore free, bolts shooting off like bullets.” The book ends with a prequel short story, “Denver Moon: Metamorphosis,” in which Denver works a case of “robocide” that ultimately ties into the novel’s main plot.

A searing mystery with a superlative gun-toting protagonist.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9986667-2-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Hex Publishers

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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