An entertaining, richly textured suspense yarn with a spirited hero.

10 DAYS

DEE ROMMEL MYSTERY #1

A one-legged private eye searches for a missing heiress while navigating mayhem on the mean streets of Portland, Maine, in this mystery.

This knotty first installment of the Dee Rommel series finds the fledgling shamus working at G&Z Investigations while on disability leave from the Portland Police Department after she was knocked off a roof by a perp and had her lower left leg amputated. She’s hired by local tech zillionaire Philip Claren to find his daughter, Lucy, a brainy, 20-something research scientist. Lucy’s gone off the grid just 10 days before her wedding to a young PR man named Tyler Peppard, whom Claren takes a dim view of. Assisted by her friend Jade, an IT whiz who can get into any encrypted file or database, Dee delves into the Claren clan’s underbelly. The excavation turns up Lucy’s rich, prickly mother; an Ecstasy-enabled, extortion-porn plot; and a sinister artificial intelligence company’s scheme to surveil people by implanting them with microchips. Dee also gets major subplots heaped on her plate. A liquor salesman who hit on her at a bar turns up dead, and she gets involved in another missing woman case when her hairdresser friend Karla Ackerman disappears. The latter riddle deepens when Dee finds Karla badly beaten in a motel and too traumatized to talk. Then, town terror Billy Payer, whom Dee and Karla testified against at his assault-and-battery trial, gets out of prison and pursues his calling of menacing everyone he comes across. Along the way, Dee fields romantic interest from canny police colleague Detective Robbie Donato and “the Reader,” a flirty knight errant who’s into motorcycles and Dickens novels.

Selbo’s busy plot creaks occasionally. The mystery’s mechanism sometimes needs people who have good reason to explain things to not explain them and others to give Dee notes clarifying things out of the blue when she’s clueless. But the narrative usually earns its keep with nifty, engrossing procedural, including Dee’s locomotion tactics—how she manages the complicated process of moving around and even climbing a tree with her prosthesis. (“I swing my good leg up and use my abs to lift the rest of my weight. Hurts like hell.”) The author grounds the story in an atmospheric portrait of a Portland divided between yuppified quaintness and working-class grit and where everyone has a shared past. Her characters are sharply etched by Dee’s always observant voice. (“The lights of the cameras hit two reflective points on” Tyler: “one on the excessive Rolex on his left wrist and the other on his shiny, pointy, steel-toed boots. He looks like an arrogant dickwad.”) In Selbo’s punchy, vivid prose, Dee is hard-boiled when she needs to be, but her injury gives her a vulnerability and interiority that deepen her. (“My goddamn leg thinks it’s whole again; the knee thinks it’s connected to a calf and ankle and foot—thinks it has muscles, tissue, fat, tendons, veins, arteries and bones all in place to keep blood flowing from my left extremity to my heart….Of course, I know it’s my brain dipping into the past; imagining the tickle of fresh sheets and the heat of a calloused hand stroking the length of my leg.”) Readers will root for her as she steps gamely into every peril.

An entertaining, richly textured suspense yarn with a spirited hero.

Pub Date: July 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-95-062739-4

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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 bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

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THE DARK HOURS

Meet today’s LAPD, with both good and bad apples reduced to reacting to crimes defensively instead of trying to prevent them, unless of course they’re willing to break the rules.

New Year’s Eve 2020 finds Detective Renée Ballard, survivor of rape and Covid-19, partnered with Detective Lisa Moore, of Hollywood’s Sexual Assault Unit, in search of leads on the Midnight Men, a tag team of rapists who assaulted women on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve without leaving any forensic evidence behind. The pair are called to the scene of a shooting that would have gone to West Bureau Homicide if the unit weren’t already stretched to the limit, a case that should be handed over to West Bureau ASAP. But Ballard gets her teeth into the murder of body shop owner Javier Raffa, who reportedly bought his way out of the gang Las Palmas. The news that Raffa’s been shot by the same weapon that killed rapper Albert Lee 10 years ago sends Ballard once more to Harry Bosch, the poster boy for retirements that drive the LAPD crazy. Both victims had taken on silent partners in order to liquidate their debts, and there’s every indication that the partners were linked. That’s enough for Ballard and Bosch to launch a shadow investigation even as Ballard, abandoned by Moore, who’s flown the coop for the weekend, works feverishly to identify the Midnight Men on her own. As usual in this stellar series, the path to the last act is paved with false leads, interdepartmental squabbles, and personal betrayals, and the structure sometimes sways in the breeze. But no one who follows Ballard and Bosch to the end will be disappointed.

A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48564-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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