Cussler, writing with his son, once again blends history, technical knowledge, bombs, bullets and betrayal into cinematic...

CRESCENT DAWN

Mix terrorists, Roman artifacts, delusions of dynasty and irrefutable physical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth lived, then add water—from the Mediterranean Sea—and you get another aquatic adventure starring Dirk Pitt and his colleagues at NUMA.

This is Cussler's 21st effort with Pitt and the National Underwater and Marine Agency (Arctic Drift, 2008, etc.). While studying algae blooms in the Aegean Sea, the intrepid explorer stumbles upon an Ottoman Empire era shipwreck, among which there are Roman artifacts. Pitt takes his find to his friend Dr. Rey Ruppé at the Istanbul Archeology Museum hoping to discover why a medieval ship would have been carrying Roman-Christian era cargo, and the nonstop action begins. There is a cast of familiar characters, including Al Giordino, Pitt's twin children, Summer and Dirk Jr., all complemented by a crew of memorable villains, including Ozden Celik and his sister, Maria, the last direct descendants of the Ottoman dynasty. That pair is in possession of black-market HMX explosives and are intent on starting a revolution. Readers also meet assorted allied Arab terrorists, traders in purloined antiquities and a too-easily-forgiven rogue archeologist named Ridley Bannister. The 100 chapters sail by rapidly when Cussler brings in the legendary Lord Kitchener, drowned in 1916 when the British warship HMS Hampshire sinks while on a mission to Russia, Helena, the mother Emperor Constantine, a nearly perfectly preserved Roman galley in a cave on Cyprus, and a letter from Jesus to Peter. The complicated plot has the most nefarious villains dead by chapter 84. Dirk Pitt fans will be happy to note the appearance of the obligatory auto, this time a 1948 Model 135 Delahaye convertible coupe with a Henri Chapron coachwork-body.

Cussler, writing with his son, once again blends history, technical knowledge, bombs, bullets and betrayal into cinematic action.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-399-15714-1

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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A mesmerizing psychological drama on loss, guilt, frustration and implacable, unexplainable evil.

DOWN THE DARKEST ROAD

In Hoag's (Secrets to the Grave, 2010, etc.) latest literary suspense novel, Lauren Lawton, "ragged and torn and shredded," has retreated to bucolic Oak Knoll to heal.

The Lawtons lived the perfect life in nearby trendy Santa Barbara, and then their older daughter, Leslie, only 16, disappeared. It was certainly kidnapping, although no body was ever discovered. Lauren's husband couldn't recover from the tragedy and eventually died, apparently a suicide. Lauren always believed she knew who took Leslie, and her relentless pursuit of the shadowy Roland Ballencoa cost Lauren her social reputation and the support of the police. As the story moves to Oak Knoll, Hoag's regulars, Sheriff Detective Tony Mendez and retired FBI profiler Vince Leone and his wife Anne, a counselor, enter the narrative. Mendez begins an investigation, slowly coming to comprehend that Lauren isn't simply a woman mired in an unreconcilable past. Mendez learns that Ballencoa, a part-time photographer who has supposedly gone straight after serving time for a youthful sex crime, has followed Lauren to Oak Knoll. An intriguing new character in the familiar Hoag milieu is Santa Barbara police detective Danni Tanner, hard-bitten, cynical, sarcastic and totally dedicated. As Mendez probes deeper into Ballencoa's history and finds little solid evidence, Lauren relentlessly pushes for action, considers vigilantism and nears collapse because of guilt over her emotional neglect of younger daughter, Leah, now the same age as Leslie when kidnapped. With a shady private investigator named Gregory Hewitt as catalyst, the narrative ramps up to a gut-wrenching and violent conclusion, albeit one that leaves a minor plot point adrift. Hoag has an eye for a writerly turn of phrase—“another verse in a poem of futility”—which makes it all the more disconcerting to stumble upon a cliché or to find the author posing an analogy that compares both the bad guy's and the hero's gaze to that of a shark.

A mesmerizing psychological drama on loss, guilt, frustration and implacable, unexplainable evil.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-525-95239-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

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THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES

Things are about to get bloody for a group of Charleston housewives.

In 1988, the scariest thing in former nurse Patricia Campbell’s life is showing up to book club, since she hasn’t read the book. It’s hard to get any reading done between raising two kids, Blue and Korey, picking up after her husband, Carter, a psychiatrist, and taking care of her live-in mother-in-law, Miss Mary, who seems to have dementia. It doesn’t help that the books chosen by the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant are just plain boring. But when fellow book-club member Kitty gives Patricia a gloriously trashy true-crime novel, Patricia is instantly hooked, and soon she’s attending a very different kind of book club with Kitty and her friends Grace, Slick, and Maryellen. She has a full plate at home, but Patricia values her new friendships and still longs for a bit of excitement. When James Harris moves in down the street, the women are intrigued. Who is this handsome night owl, and why does Miss Mary insist that she knows him? A series of horrific events stretches Patricia’s nerves and her Southern civility to the breaking point. (A skin-crawling scene involving a horde of rats is a standout.) She just knows James is up to no good, but getting anyone to believe her is a Sisyphean feat. After all, she’s just a housewife. Hendrix juxtaposes the hypnotic mundanity of suburbia (which has a few dark underpinnings of its own) against an insidious evil that has taken root in Patricia’s insular neighborhood. It’s gratifying to see her grow from someone who apologizes for apologizing to a fiercely brave woman determined to do the right thing—hopefully with the help of her friends. Hendrix (We Sold Our Souls, 2018, etc.) cleverly sprinkles in nods to well-established vampire lore, and the fact that he’s a master at conjuring heady 1990s nostalgia is just the icing on what is his best book yet.

Fans of smart horror will sink their teeth into this one.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68369-143-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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