Plenty of pain for the characters, plenty of thrills for the reader.

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CITY ON FIRE

A blistering novel filled with anger and bite.

Danny Ryan is a dockworker in Providence, Rhode Island, who’s “faithful like a dog” to his wife, Terri, of the rival Murphy clan, and sometimes does some less-than-legal errands for his father-in-law, John. He wants more out of his life and wants to “not owe nobody nothing,” but nobody ever leaves Dogtown. One day at the beach, he sees “the goddess who came out of the sea” and who “has a voice like sex.” Terri's brother Liam Murphy accidentally-on-purpose touches the woman’s breast, which sets off a chain reaction of events in which bullets fly and f-bombs and their ilk swarm like cicadas on nearly every page. You know, you just don’t touch a made guy’s woman, and the goddess is going out with Paulie Moretti. The Providence press gleefully reports the other-side-of-the-tracks bloodletting among men who supplement their wages with hijacking trucks and boosting heroin. So Danny wants out with his wife and son, but—well, it’s complicated. Chances are they’ll have to live and die in Dogtown. And, oh yeah, Danny loathes his rich mother, who tries so hard to make amends for abandoning him. The characters are as vividly described as some of them are vile: One guy “never met a job he couldn’t lose.” John Murphy is “the king of an empire that died a long time ago. The light of a long-dead star.” At the ocean, Danny observes that the “whitecaps look like the beards of sad old men.” A Murphy declares, “That Ryan blood….It’s cursed.” But the Murphy blood isn’t exactly touched by angels either. And then there are the Morettis, all of them trapped in a cycle of crime and violence, just looking for an excuse to go to war. One difference between Danny and some of the others is he’s never killed anybody. Yet. Meanwhile, a planned heist might just solve some financial problems for whoever survives all the betrayals.

Plenty of pain for the characters, plenty of thrills for the reader.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-285119-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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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