An often engaging adventure with paranormal elements.

THE SPEAR OF VENGEANCE

An FBI agent must unite with his lost love, his mentor, and a mysterious figure to defeat an immortal foe in Smith’s thriller.

Dan Alexander hasn’t seen Dr. Amelia “Ames” Cranford since they were in college. Now, 15 years later, she’s an expert on infectious diseases and he’s one of the FBI’s top agents. He receives an assignment to protect Ames, who manages a research lab at Stanford University, because someone has apparently been murdering other experts in her field. Then a deadly attack lays waste to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where Ames is attending a conference, killing many top scientists. Dan, his mentor Zachary Reid, and Ames go on the run and are intercepted by a mysterious man who rescues them from imminent danger. As the characters slowly begin to trust one another, the man, who goes by “John,” reveals the truth: He’s an immortal, and one of many living around world. Another is known only as “the Professor,” a very dangerous man who means to wipe out all mortals. Working with the Professor is Dan’s brother, Cain, who’s been missing for years. As Dan, Ames, Zachary, and John band together to fight the Professor, attacks on innocents proliferate. However, Ames may have found a way to defeat the enemy. Over the course of this thriller, Smith tells a fast-paced story with occasional Christian elements, populated by well-developed, three-dimensional characters. Exciting action scenes and unexpected twists add further complexity to the narrative, and John’s and the Professor’s backstories intriguingly delve into distant history, although a part involving events during the Holocaust may be off-putting for some. That said, the building romantic relationship between Dan and Ames is realistic and compelling; they’re revealed as two people with a turbulent past, but who care about each other deeply and are willing to do what they have to do to make things work.

An often engaging adventure with paranormal elements.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68515-437-0

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Palmetto Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 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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It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

HIDDEN PICTURES

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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