Sketch out some exotic, ephemeral settings, make every villain as nasty as possible, and it’s another of Cussler’s...

ODESSA SEA

Cussler’s conglomerate (Built to Thrill, 2016, etc.) gives fans their money’s worth with 500 pages chronicling Dirk Pitt’s Black Sea adventures while hopscotching back to the Russian Revolution, then up to today’s Iranian quest for nuclear weapons, and throwing in a rogue terror attack on the United States for good measure.

Dirk and his longtime lieutenant, the rugged Al Giordino, are sailing the Black Sea because his National Underwater and Marine Agency has been contracted by Bulgaria to seek an Ottoman-era shipwreck. They answer a distress call from a ship they find full of dead bodies and highly enriched uranium, which turns out to have been purloined from unstable Ukraine by cohorts of Valentin Mankedo, a Bulgarian black-market smuggler, and destined for Iran. Meanwhile, Dirk junior and twin sister Summer work the Baltic Sea, where they stumble on shadowy hints of a trove of 1917 Romanov gold bullion. The second nefarious Mankedo enterprise troubling Pitt’s crew is the salvage of an atomic weapon from a Soviet 1955 bomber crash. Mankedo’s been financed by Martin Hendriks, tech billionaire and cutting-edge Peregrine drone manufacturer, whose devious plans include an elaborate false-flag operation. The A-bomb is usable because it’s been submerged in "anoxic waters…loaded with hydrogen sulfide," so oxygen-deprived that it prevents corrosion. There are the usual esoteric Cussler-style science and historical factoids to spice up the story, but to spark the hunt for the czar’s gold, he imagines a Proposed Treaty of Petrograd which send the younger Pitts seeking the bullion in secret tunnels burrowing through the Rock of Gibraltar. In one storyline or the other, there are cinematic boat chases, nighttime commando raids, dueling research submersibles, a secret trip to Bermuda, and a Chesapeake Bay battle involving the Civil War sloop USS Constellation.

Sketch out some exotic, ephemeral settings, make every villain as nasty as possible, and it’s another of Cussler’s cinematic-style entertainments spinning out at hold-on-to-your-hat speed.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-57551-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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