Down-to-earth action tackles an otherworldly mystery in this devilishly plausible yarn.

DIABLO MESA

Two desiccated corpses aren’t the strangest discoveries made by archaeologists in this third entry of Preston and Child’s unusual crime series.

Nora Kelly is summoned to her boss’s office at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute and assigned to investigate the site where an unidentified aircraft, perhaps a UFO, supposedly crashed in 1947. She believes that claims of an alien space landing near Roswell are “wacko.” But billionaire Lucas Tappan has provided a generous grant to the institute, and he specifically wants Nora to lead the expedition because of her reputation. She declines and is fired. So Tappan comes to her directly. But “I can’t put digging up UFOs on my resume,” she tells Skip, her less-skeptical brother. “It’s too weird.” Tappan wears her down and hires them both. Reluctantly she takes a team to the area, where they uncover a pair of corpses buried in New Mexico’s high desert. They notify the police, and FBI agent Corrie Swanson takes on the case because they’re on federal land. But the depression in the sand suggests that the vehicle—a flying saucer, maybe?—had struck the ground at a low angle and skipped repeatedly, like a flat rock across a pond. When they come to a possible final resting place, the archaeologists start digging. Just as they are about to make a shocking discovery, armed men stop them. Whatever is under a couple of meters of earth is a secret the government has closely guarded since the ’40s, and these dudes demonstrate that they will kill intruders on the spot. Kelly and Swanson aren’t friends, but they’ve worked well together ever since they debuted in Old Bones (2019), and they are smart, strong, and appealing protagonists. The story has tension, mystery, murder, and enough romance to give Kelly “a powerful glow, a whole-body tingle.”

Down-to-earth action tackles an otherworldly mystery in this devilishly plausible yarn.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3675-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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