VULCAN'S FORGE

A debut thriller introducing Philip Mercermine engineer, geological consultant, and the only Bond clone who carries a Derringer strapped to his testicles. A study in triple crosses, Du Brul's story tells of a 40-year plot contrived by the Russians, who want to own a newly risen underwater volcano 200 miles off Hawaii. Geological physicist Pytor Borodin and an American physicist who's studying the oceanic Bikini A-bomb test have independently discovered the same fact: that enormous underwater thermal heat, when mixed with lava, can produce the hardest fuel known to manbikinium, which, once put to use, gives off more energy than is needed to burn it. Back in 1954, Borodin had also discovered that the thinnest part of the tectonic plate in the Pacific is just 200 miles past Hawaii. So the Reds secretly sink a ship carrying an A-bomb. The plan is to detonate it on the seafloor, creating a volcano whose lava can then be processed very cheaply for bikinium, leaving the Soviets as the most powerful people on earth. But during the 40- year wait for this secret volcano to break to the surface, at which point it can be claimed as Soviet territory, the USSR empire collapses and a KGB officer decides to sell the whole plan for Vulcan's Forge to North Korea for $100 million. Enter Philip Mercer, out to save the life of on old friend's daughter, a member of a geologic survey team lost near the volcano. Much bang-bang but little kiss-kiss ensues. Meanwhile, a superbillionaire Japanese racist plots the secession of Hawaii, and Mercer, empowered by the US President, finds himself in cliffhangers more wonderfully outrageous than you'll find in Clive Cussler or Ian Fleming. A finely tuned first installment in the Mercer series, buoyed by strong, fresh writing. Remember, Fleming could never top From Russia With Love, so come aboard now.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-86481-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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