SURVIVE THE NIGHT

A hellish road trip from the author of Home Before Dark (2020) and Lock Every Door (2019).

After her roommate and best friend is murdered, Charlie Jordan decides that she has to get away from Olyphant University. She’s posting a flyer looking for someone to give her a ride home when she meets a stranger who just happens to be going her way. This is Sager’s fifth novel, and readers familiar with his brand of psychological horror know that he favors high-concept plots. Here, the whole narrative unfolds over one long, eventful night in 1991. Sager’s fans may also recognize that Charlie fits a type. She’s a heroine who doesn’t seem much interested in self-preservation; another way to put that is that she behaves in ways that are astonishingly stupid—again and again and again. In the opening pages, she spends a lot of time wondering if it seems reasonable for a young woman who just lost her friend to a serial killer to travel across two states with a man she’s never met. It doesn’t seem reasonable at all, but this is what has to happen if Sager is going to write the story he wants to write, so….The whole first half of the novel is Charlie discovering that her driver may not be who he says he is, that he may plan to do her harm. This feels like a lot of time to spend establishing something that every reader is going to assume. The back end, though, is filled with twists. When these dramatic turns are genuinely surprising, it’s because they are absurdly baroque. In other instances, they are as inevitable as the denouement of a Greek tragedy. Oh, and there’s also some business about Charlie’s love of classic film and history of trauma combining to create a singular condition in which she momentarily leaves reality behind and gets lost in cinematic fantasy. This makes very little sense, but it’s occasionally important to the plot. Despite its flaws, readers who decide to just give in and go along for the ride will have a diverting couple of hours ahead of them.

Suspenseful—and silly.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18316-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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