Crisply written, skillfully paced, with respectful attention to details about explosives and serial-killer tracking...

DEVIANT WAYS

Routine, by-the-numbers psychokiller tale set in Massachusetts’s tony Marblehead beach town and the New England sticks that delivers all the nail-biting suspense the genre requires.

Police Detective Jack Casey is a former FBI profiler who crashed and burned after he was tied up and forced to watch his wife massacred by Miles “the Sandman” Hamilton, an impossibly brilliant serial slasher, as well as a supremely skilled hacker—computer, cell-phone, hidden-TV-camera, you name it. Casey lives quietly now, spending his free time working out and having great sex with his impossibly gorgeous girlfriend, bicoastal celebrity photographer Taylor Branch. Taylor has an impossibly cute niece Rachel staying at Taylor's impossibly cool Marblehead beach house. Alas, Casey goes out on a 911 call about a robbery and finds the husband alive and tied up in his bed, with the gory remains of his family against the bedroom wall. Just as Casey is about to ask the man who did the deed, the house blows up, incinerating the husband, the victims, and two cops. Casey barely escapes and, a month later, when another bloody tableau fails to detonate, he gets a call from the Sandman, who threatens to go after Taylor and Rachel if Casey doesn't drop his investigation. Naturally, Casey refuses to let the creep who killed his wife continue his homicidal rampage and seeks help from Malcom Fletcher, a retired, possibly demented FBI profiler who demonstrates high-tech talents not unlike the Sandman’s, and seems to know more than he’s telling. Meanwhile, FBI agents in Los Angeles discover their computer has been hacked, and someone has poked around in supersecret files of a supersecret, not-completely-successful psychological research project that had tried to nip serial killers in the bud. Could the Sandman be a reject from this project who’s now avenging himself on his tormentors?

Crisply written, skillfully paced, with respectful attention to details about explosives and serial-killer tracking techniques: the pages turn in spite of a tiresomely formulaic plot.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-671-04059-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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