An engaging thriller that, despite some flaws, contains storytelling that pulls readers compulsively onward.

THE ISLAND

An American family’s trip to see koalas and Australian wildlife becomes a life-and-death situation after they kill an innocent woman in a car crash and her family seeks revenge.

Tom, 44; his second wife, Heather, 24; and his kids, Olivia, 14, and Owen, 12, are in Australia, piggybacking a family vacation onto a business trip. After a difficult year that saw the death of Tom’s first wife and his marriage to Heather—whom the kids dislike—a group trip seems like a way to bring them all together. Renting a car to drive to the coast in search of interesting animals seems like a fun excursion. But while stopping at a roadside stand for food, the family gets to talking with some local people, and they end up on a tiny ferry to a remote private island in search of the wildlife they haven’t yet seen. Once on the island, one thing leads to another, and Tom, driving too fast, hits a woman on a bike, killing her instantly. Over several generations, the family that lives on the island has become a law unto itself, and after realizing that the woman is dead, they seek retribution—whether it will be via death, rape, or cash is to be decided by Ma, the head of the family, and Danny, the husband of the woman who's been killed. Some elements of the survival story feel more like convenient plot points than believable developments, and the writing is occasionally overwrought as McKinty seeks to make weighty statements about life, death, and spiritual links to the natural world, but on the whole, McKinty has written an exciting thriller that follows Heather and the others as they seek to run, hide, and survive the elements until the police—whom they have no way of contacting—can arrive.

An engaging thriller that, despite some flaws, contains storytelling that pulls readers compulsively onward.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-53128-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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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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