A fun read for the right niche of thriller readers.

BETTER OFF DEAD

Jack Reacher goes on an energy-packed tear in this latest adventure by Child & Child.

Killing off your protagonist nearly from the get-go is a hell of an attention-getter, even if the reader knows it can’t be true. Ex–military cop Reacher  watches Michaela Fenton kill two men as she searches for her twin brother, Michael, and of course Reacher can’t not get involved. Michaela feels responsible for Michael’s apparent death and says, “I’d be better off dead,” a sentiment Reacher discourages. The criminal she fears most “only breaks cover when someone who was a threat to him is dead,” so Reacher stages his own fake murder and is shipped to the morgue. But fans of his fists needn’t fret, as he has plenty of occasion to whale the bejesus out of the bad guys. Michael has been caught up in a scheme to build bombs of a curious nature. Maybe they’re harmless devices designed to release red, white, and blue smoke in a “swirling patriotic cloud” in homage to Old Glory. Or perhaps the agenda is to wreak havoc on Veterans Day, because said smoke could be laced with the deadly VX nerve gas. So the plot’s a bit wacky, but at least it’s not trite. Reacher dispenses plenty of knuckle justice and cranium cracking, and wounded vet Michaela gets in some well-placed kicks. The writing is unmemorable, with loads of short, declarative sentences. Incomplete ones, too. No reader is going to say omigod, I wish I could write a sentence like that. Maybe Reacher should repeat high school English to remember that it’s OK for tough guys to express complex thoughts now and then. He could use a love life, too. You’d think Michaela’s titanium boot would be a turn-on for him, but no. Yet all of this—plausible plot or not, Pulitzer-level prose or not—won't mean much to readers just looking for an exciting escape.

A fun read for the right niche of thriller readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984818-50-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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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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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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