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RACING ORION

Although much of this is cartoonishly over-the-top, there is surely an enthusiastic audience for it.

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In Franz’s thriller, one CIA agent strives to save the world from the mother of all viruses.

CIA agent Jeremy Kent was a mole in a bad guys’ outfit and was discovered, but only after he had snatched and hidden the antidote to the most insidious and powerful artificial virus known to humankind. Of course, he does not crack under torture, and in the nick of time, escapes. (In fact, he escapes time and time again!) Jeremy is being chased now all across Europe, and in a particularly harrowing getaway, beautiful innocent bystander Allison Shaw is pulled into the chaos. Now it is the two of them on the run—and of course the seeds of love have been planted. They have the antidote to the virus but must retrieve a key (don’t ask) that has been stashed in Buckingham Palace. Franz certainly knows how to keep things moving. The chapters are very short, and unlike thrillers with more subtle plots, this one is really just one long, relentless, hair-raising chase. The good guys are good, and the bad guys are horrifically, pathologically bad. Jeremy is not George Smiley but rather James Bond, squared. At one point, he chews into his own shoulder to get out a capsule that will simulate death. He is shot, knifed, and thrown around like a rag doll, but he always recovers with, seemingly, no lasting effects. There are some good if overwrought lines (“A cloud of nightmarish déjà vu instantly filled the cabin”), and the writing is generally up to the job despite occasional typos. At the climax, all seems lost, but we have learned by now to trust in the hokey faith that Franz has instilled in us.

Although much of this is cartoonishly over-the-top, there is surely an enthusiastic audience for it.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-09-837913-1

Page Count: 308

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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