KNIFE SKILLS

A kickoff to a possible series whose later installments will be hard-pressed to live up to its dizzying standards.

A Chicago chef with a troubled past must cope with an even more troubled present.

Louie Ferrar may have hired Sagarine Pfister when nobody else would give her a second look, but now that he’s been stabbed to death and frozen solid inside his freezer, Sags is on her own. She reacts by instructing the few staffers at Louie’s who know what’s happened not to report it till they’ve completed their dinner service for the guests of Anatoly Morzov, the majority owner of the restaurant. Det. Carter isn’t crazy about the nine-hour delay before he was notified, but the dinner otherwise goes off so well that Anatoly demands that Sags cater a party at his house. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Jebediah Smith demands that she accept the job, allow the feds to install hidden microphones around the restaurant, and report back to him on Anatoly and his mobbed-up friends—unless she wants Smith to come down hard on her sister, Gigi, whose own past includes drugs, prostitution, and a nasty childhood secret. An already complicated situation, which includes Sags’ stalking by an all-seeing correspondent who acts both smitten and possessive, gets even dicier when impossibly beautiful Ekaterina Belyaev, the sister of Anatoly’s lieutenant Valentin Belyaev, makes a play for Sags, who’s more than ready to respond in kind. Church tosses in loving descriptions of world-class cuisine, detailed accounts of how to weaponize kitchen appliances against attacking gangsters, and a climax that will leave you gasping. Audiences who wish the TV series The Bear could make room for Russian mobsters are in for a treat.

A kickoff to a possible series whose later installments will be hard-pressed to live up to its dizzying standards.

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781448312597

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE FURY

More style than substance.

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Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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