The music hall décor and atmosphere help distract from the flawed whodunit.


A disgraced architect struggles to clear his name in Belfoure’s third architecture-based thriller.

In 1900, Londoners flock to the gala opening of the new Britannia Empire Theatre. During a comedian’s routine, a balcony collapses, killing 14 and maiming countless others. Douglas Layton, a prominent architect who rose from humble roots to marry into the aristocracy, designed the Britannia and is blamed for the carnage. After serving five years in prison, Layton, divorced and barred from seeing his son, is adrift and a drunk. When he lands a job as scene painter for the Grand Imperial Theatre in Nottingham, he seizes this opportunity to reinvent himself. Under an assumed name, he wins the affections of the “artistes” whose backdrops he paints and the love of Cissie Mapes, who runs the theaters of the powerful MacMillan Empire syndicate, which turns out to have included the ill-fated Britannia. With trepidation, he soon accepts a transfer to MacMillan’s London circuit. Despite his new identity, his reputation as “The Butcher of the West End” has preceded him; he’s bedeviled by a builder whose career also ended with the Britannia job, a blackmailer, and at least two unseen attackers. But Layton’s architect’s eye is ever attuned to minor details, and when he notices plaster and mortar anomalies in two MacMillan venues, his digging unearths skeletons in each location. Telling clues point to the fact that those interred were his two former associates. Could they have been murdered because they realized the balcony defects were deliberately engineered? Layton sets about trying to learn who stood to gain from the Britannia collapse by researching possible ties linking the 14 casualties to the likeliest culprits—the MacMillan owners, the head of a rival syndicate, and the aggrieved builder. Once Belfoure embarks on this expansive fishing expedition, another structural failure looms: Since the suspects’ imputed motives conflict, a few of the deaths have to be coincidental—but which ones? It is a cul de sac from which Belfoure, himself an architect, cannot design a convincing exit.

The music hall décor and atmosphere help distract from the flawed whodunit.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6271-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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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