Plenty of astute analysis and innovative proposals but not enough narrative energy.

THE DAYS TO COME

Political consultants Peter Rena and Randi Brooks return for another thriller-cum–civics lesson following Oppo (2019).

Having helped Wendy Upton clear her reputation and become vice president of the United States, Rena and Brooks find themselves in President-elect David Traynor's inner circle. Traynor is a Silicon Valley technocrat with big plans for the country, and in laying them out he functions as an advocate for Rosenstiel's own prescription for an American administration. This prescription is astute, but unfortunately it's laid out so comprehensively that it detracts from any element of thrill in the plot. In Rosenstiel's analysis, the key to saving the climate lies in energy storage—a better battery will make possible a large-scale shift to renewable energy sources. Traynor creates a secret battery-development initiative using private tech startups funded from national security sources; the effort is speculative at best, but the rewards seem to justify the political risk. Then Traynor dies, and Upton takes the helm. She's concerned that news of the initiative will leak and expose her administration to legal and political hazards, and she engages Rena and Brooks to assess how practical and how secure the program is; foreign individuals have also invested in the startups and may be acting as agents of competing powers. Rena, meanwhile, is suffering an identity crisis brought on by the breakup of his longtime relationship, and, in a somewhat superfluous subplot, Steph Myers, a wannabe conspiracy theorist, stalks him. None of these plot elements is compelling or substantial enough to carry the narrative.

Plenty of astute analysis and innovative proposals but not enough narrative energy.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-289264-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Dirk Cussler carries on what his father started in a series that never gets old.

CLIVE CUSSLER'S THE DEVIL'S SEA

In the 26th of the lively Dirk Pitt Adventures, the family finds trouble on the high seas and in the high mountains.

Trouble comes looking for Dirk Pitt and his children, Dirk and Summer, in the strangest and most entertaining ways. (Mom is in Congress and misses all the fun.) Fans know that the elder Pitt is Director of NUMA, the National Underwater and Marine Agency, and that he’s not one to “sail a desk.” So they’re in the seas near the Philippines on a research project when they come across a sunken ship and the remnants of a Chinese rocket. The Chinese are upset that their secret Mach-25 rocket has failed once again. Then the area begins to get hit with unexplained tsunamis while Dirk Senior and his colleague Al Giordino explore the depths in Stingray, their submersible. The plot splits off when Dad asks son and daughter to fly to Taiwan to return a large stone antiquity they find in an aircraft that had disappeared in 1963. A Taiwanese museum official recognized it as the Nechung Idol from Tibet, so the siblings head to northern India. Dad rescues a woman from drowning and gets embroiled in a nasty conflict involving her father, a hijacked ship, and guys with guns and nefarious intentions. Meanwhile, young Dirk and Summer wind up in the Himalayas as they try to take the precious stone to the Dalai Lama. There, they try not to get themselves killed by bullets or hypothermia as they stay a step ahead of more villains who want the idol. The Pitts are all great characters—clever, gutsy, and lucky. When he and Giordino find themselves in a heck of a pickle in an area called The Devil’s Sea, Dad Pitt declares a great American truism: “Nothing’s impossible with a little duct tape.” And everything sticks together in the end—the tsunamis, the rocket, the idol. As with all the Dirk Pitt yarns, the action is fast and over-the-top, and the violence is only what’s needed to advance the story.

Dirk Cussler carries on what his father started in a series that never gets old.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-41964-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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