A riveting, spirited actioner and a worthy addition to its series.

THE ATROPOS MAKER III

THE AWAKENING

A Black Ops agent searches for his missing daughter while someone threatens his agency in this third entry in Lujan’s action-thriller series.

Alexander Veurr is exceedingly protective of his 12-year-old daughter, Elina. As part of Atropos, a covert government organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., he’s adept at hand-to-hand combat and the uses of various weaponry. He trains Elina in these skills as well, but she has little interest in the family business. She’s also not very keen on Xavier, the retired Atropos team member and quasi-bodyguard who constantly shadows her; she’d rather have alone time with the boy she likes. Then, one day, Alexander’s nightmare becomes a reality when Elina suddenly vanishes. Around the same time, a man named Nolan is assigned by the president of the United States to monitor Atropos’ missions. It’s a mere excuse, however, to make himself head of the agency and push others out; as a result, Alexander and his comrades have no resources to track down Elina. They’ll have to rely on their intellect to figure out how and why someone abducted Alexander’s daughter. Lujan sets this story several years after The Atropos Maker II: A New Order (2020). Many series regulars crop up, although the author wisely centers on only a handful. Elina is a standout among the cast, as she alternates between professionalism and immature behavior, as when she refuses to speak to Xavier after he intentionally embarrasses her. Her kidnapping infuses the novel with plenty of suspense, as the circumstances of her disappearance are initially a complete mystery. There are bursts of action, as well, and Lujan’s concise prose maintains a brisk tempo (“Tires scream leaving treadmarks on the broken asphalt as the engine revs the cylinders wide open”) even during scenes involving father-daughter arguments over boys. Newcomers to the series will easily follow the story, although the somewhat-jarring final chapter will make more sense to those who’ve read the previous installment.

A riveting, spirited actioner and a worthy addition to its series.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 979-8-9859759-4-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Mindstir Media

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2022

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A weird, wild ride.

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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