A prescient, insidious horror novel that takes sheer terror to a whole new level.

SURVIVOR SONG

When a virulent and potent form of rabies upends life as we know it in Massachusetts, a pregnant woman and her pediatrician must fight for survival.

Tremblay reached rare new highs in the horror genre with the superbly creepy novel The Cabin at the End of the World (2018) and the Twilight Zone–esque story collection Growing Things (2019). Now, in the midst of a real-life health crisis, Tremblay delivers an eerily prophetic story about a mass outbreak of a rage-inducing virus and the havoc that ensues—basically, he's gone full-on Stephen King by way of 28 Days Later. The story opens in a small, woodsy community south of Boston where what seemed like a relatively mild rabies problem has jumped to humans, who are driven to violent rages and overtaken by a compulsion to bite as many other victims as possible to spread the disease before they eventually succumb and die within a short time. One of our protagonists is Natalie, a very pregnant woman whose husband is violently murdered by one of the outbreak victims right before her eyes. Desperate, bitten, and infected herself while also in shock, she reaches out to her pediatrician, Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, to help her get a dose of the rabies vaccine before she has the baby or succumbs to the illness. Now it’s a race against time to save Natalie and the baby, all while communities are being ravaged by violence. Meanwhile, the outbreak is exacerbated by “a myopic, sluggish federal bureaucracy further hamstrung by a president unwilling and woefully unequipped to make the rational, science-based decisions necessary.” Encounters with well-meaning strangers and near-death escapes are punctuated by Natalie’s sweet recorded messages to her unborn child. A cinematic scope, scenarios grounded in the real world, and a breathless pace make this thriller one of the must-read titles of the summer.

A prescient, insidious horror novel that takes sheer terror to a whole new level.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-267916-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

THE CAMEL CLUB

A lukewarm would-be potboiler of uninvolving intrigue about a kooky quartet of conspiracy theorists—one by the name of “Oliver Stone”—who witness the murder of a federal agent.

Almost 8,000 Americans have died in attacks on U.S. soil. Rocket-propelled grenades have pierced the White House, there’s been another prison fiasco in Afghanistan, a dozen soldiers are dying every day and the war has opened a new front on the Syrian border. Thus the author’s bleak imagining of the near future. Throughout, Baldacci (Hour Game, 2004, etc.) drops reliable twists, revealing the federal agent murder to be—surprise—a minuscule piece of a much bigger plot involving snipers, nukes, a presidential kidnapping and an even gloomier vision of the future. Baldacci is not a particularly graceful writer, e.g., “Like all Secret Service agents, his suits were designed a little big in the chest, to disguise the bulge of the weapon.” Worse is the author’s chronic inability to draw convincing characters. Scooby-Doo had villains more complicated than these; distinctive quirks of the characters, such as one wearing 19th-century clothing, make them only mildly interesting. Baldacci himself seems only partly engaged in the task here. He writes as if he imagines his typical reader to be a business traveler staring down a long layover.

Sure to be a bestseller, but the guy’s phoning it in.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-446-57738-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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