Although equipped with adequate back story to allow The Fifth Assassin to be enjoyed alone, smart readers will first dip...

THE FIFTH ASSASSIN

Beecher White returns as hero in Meltzer’s (The Inner Circle, 2011, etc.) second installment of his conspiracy thriller surrounding the Culper Ring and a corrupt president.

Beecher is an archivist at the National Archives. He’s also the newest member of that obscure brotherhood, the Culper Ring. It’s linked through history to George Washington—“the [Secret] Service’s mission is to protect the President. In the Culper Ring, we protect the Presidency.” One secret endangering the current presidency, which Beecher and the Ring uncovered, is that the man holding the highest office, Orson Wallace, once took part in a brutal murder. Readers meet characters old and new, including Beecher’s fellow archivist Aristotle “Tot” Westman and an undercover computer nerd nicknamed Mac. Then there’s Clementine, Beecher’s childhood acquaintance and daughter of Nico Hadrian, institutionalized, unsuccessful presidential assassin. Through a military human-guinea-pig experiment, Nico is linked to Beecher and to one of Beecher’s childhood friends, Marshall Lusk, a boy with a troubled background. Lusk now works with a secret Government Accountability Office group using stealth tactics to uncover possible security breaches. As the story begins, Lusk is appearing too often at the wrong place at the right time. This includes the site where a murderer replicates the techniques and circumstances of the assassination of Lincoln. The killer’s script next shifts to the murders of Garfield, then McKinley, with each assassination targeting a pastor instead of the president. Decoding the mystery through symbols on playing cards, Beecher and Tot confront another clandestine group, The Knights of the Golden Circle, linked to Etienne de Vignoles, a 14th-century knight charged with protecting the Name of God by killing kings—presidents?—who stand in the way. Adding the mysterious and troubled Lusk to the cast ratchets up the drama and human interest, and Meltzer’s fans will enjoy the usual sprinkling of history factoids, fast-paced writing and the double-whiplash bombshell conclusion.  

Although equipped with adequate back story to allow The Fifth Assassin to be enjoyed alone, smart readers will first dip into the series opener, The Inner Circle.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-446-55397-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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