An entertaining tale that provides a wide variety of troubles for its protagonist.

FLAMES

A NOVEL

After saving family members from hit men, a writer and motorcyclist finds himself on the run and wanted for murder in Littrell’s (Lone Wolfs Run, 2014, etc.) thriller.

Sam Forest, who writes travel stories for a biker magazine, is devastated by the news that his younger brother, Dave, has suffered a fatal heart attack. Sam stays with his cousin, Sue, in North Carolina while making funeral arrangements. Later, he’s horrified when the funeral home botches the cremation. When he returns to Sue’s house, he finds that two gunmen are threatening her and her husband; fortunately, he has a Glock and gets the drop on the intruders and kills them. It appears that the assassins were looking for him, although he doesn’t know why. Later, the funeral home becomes the site of arson and murder, and Sam becomes the police’s primary suspect. He manages to evade authorities, helped by a fellow biker named Boudin, whom he recently befriended. Sam may be able to prove his innocence with help from his pal and his biker family, as well as from Detective Vick Summers, the only cop in town who doesn’t think that he’s a vicious killer. But he and those close to him, including a new love interest, Betsy, soon find themselves targeted by an outlaw motorcycle club and pitiless smugglers. Littrell’s novel maintains a consistent pace, due to a slew of villains who keep Sam on the run, including corrupt law enforcement officers; the rogues’ gallery’s highlights include an enigmatic figure named Mr. B and an evil motorcycle gang leader named Slash. The latter’s unmitigated cruelty while torturing one victim establishes him as the main antagonist, and he has a significant part in the action-packed final act. The author is at his best, however, when describing scenes of bikers riding, such as Sam in the Appalachian Mountains: “The trees growing on the steep mountain slopes around him cast deep shadows as they filtered out the remaining light from the sky above.” The ending leaves open the possibility for a sequel, although the book reads well as a stand-alone.

An entertaining tale that provides a wide variety of troubles for its protagonist.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4582-2156-8

Page Count: 378

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2018

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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