Violence and love go hand in hand in this tale of two rough men seeking vengeance for their murdered sons.

RAZORBLADE TEARS

A lean, mean crime story about two bereaved fathers getting their hands bloody.

Coming from the right author, genre fiction has a rare capacity to touch on any number of big ideas: love, death, hatred, violence, freedom, bondage, and redemption, to name just a few. Cosby's latest fits the bill. Fast on its feet, by turns lethal and tender, the story takes place in small-town Virginia, though it could be the backwoods of a great many places. Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins, both ex-cons haunted by their pasts, wouldn’t ordinarily mix, largely because Ike is Black and Buddy Lee is White and a casual racist. But the two men are tragically linked. Their sons were married to each other, and they were murdered together, shot in their faces outside a fancy Richmond wine store on their anniversary. The dads are both homophobes, but they also love their sons, so when the police investigation quickly stalls, Ike and Buddy Lee decide to crack a few skulls on their own. Cosby gives us both the charge of once-bad men getting back in touch with their wild sides and the sad reluctance of relatively straight-and-narrow lives turning to vengeance. These old-timers have done bad, bad things, and they’ve done the time to prove it. Now they’re ready to do those things again in the name of a thorny father-son love that neither man is quite comfortable with. Here’s Buddy Lee after a long, hard night with his new friend: “Chopping up your first body is disgusting. Your second is tiresome. When you’re doing your fifteenth it’s all muscle memory.” This is a bloody good yarn with two compelling antiheroes you’ll root for from the start, and not only because their enemies, or at least some of them, belong to a White nationalist biker club with murderous ways of its own. Lean and mean, this is crime fiction with a chip on its shoulder.

Violence and love go hand in hand in this tale of two rough men seeking vengeance for their murdered sons.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-25270-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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