A convoluted, overheated tale of espionage.

FALLOUT

A MI6 agent is hunted by assassins sent by a vengeful double agent who believes he was betrayed during the Cold War.

Banastre Montjoy, the deputy chief of MI6, the famed British intelligence agency, hails from a long lineage of spies—“a score of distant relatives”—including his grandmother Madeleine Halliwell. When she dies suddenly from a heart attack and two other retired MI6 agents with whom she worked closely die in quick turn, Montjoy is naturally suspicious. Yet another man—a civilian—mistaken for Montjoy is killed in South Carolina when Montjoy is there visiting his half brother, Sean Garret, and he fully realizes someone is hunting agents. He takes a leave of absence and recruits the help of Sean, an ex–Special Forces operator in the Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service, to figure out why someone would risk so much to eliminate him. A man in his position would be exceedingly difficult to kill and doing so would involve severe consequences. Montjoy deduces the connection among targets is a pair of missions conducted in the mid-’80s in East Berlin that resulted in the sacrifice of a Soviet asset, Alexei Arkipov, a KGB agent who is supposed to be dead. Hunter (Sanction, 2017) exhibits an impressive knowledge of the inner machinations of international espionage as well as the history of the Cold War. He evokes an atmosphere of dread and dark distrust, the kind of hard-boiled ambiance reminiscent of the work of Alan Furst. However, unlike Furst, the author seems more interested in the promiscuous creation of characters than their development, and as the body of dramatis personae grows, the reader’s interest in them is likely to diminish. Further, the writing is more melodramatic than hard-edged—there are simply too many lines like this: “And you’re wondering whether I take one hollow point, or two, with my tea?”  

A convoluted, overheated tale of espionage.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

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

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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