Book Review Tuesday: The Scorpion’s Tail by Preston & Child, Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks #historicalmysteries #horrorsuspense

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Hello, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of May. I read these novels during the chilly days of winter but didn’t have the blog space to share the reviews until now. One is the second book in a spin-off series and the other was languishing on my TBR much too long. Pile enough books on your Kindle and the titles get buried. Both of these deliver action and suspense. Take a look!

Following the acclaimed debut of Old Bones, this second “happily anticipated” new thriller in Preston & Child’s series features Nora Kelly, archaeologist at the Santa Fe Archeological Institute, and rookie FBI Agent Corrie Swanson, as they team up to solve a mystery that quickly escalates into nightmare (Booklist).

A mummified corpse, over half a century old, is found in the cellar of an abandoned building in a remote New Mexico ghost town. Corrie is assigned what seems to her a throwaway case: to ID the body and determine cause of death. She brings archaeologist Nora Kelly to excavate the body and lend her expertise to the investigation, and together they uncover something unexpected and shocking: the deceased apparently died in agony, in a fetal position, skin coming off in sheets, with a rictus of horror frozen on his face.

Hidden on the corpse lies a 16th century Spanish gold cross of immense value.

When they at last identify the body — and the bizarre cause of death — Corrie and Nora open a door into a terrifying, secret world of ancient treasure and modern obsession: a world centered on arguably the most defining, frightening, and transformative moment in American history.

This is the second Preston and Child outing for archeologist, Dr. Nora Kelly and rookie FBI agent, Corrie Swanson. I’m a fan of both of these ladies having followed their development in the Agent Pendergast series. While this is a good story with an intricately layered plot woven around a ghost town, buried treasure, military testing, and an ancient corpse, I found it dragged a little in certain spots. And as much as I love Pendergast—one of my all-time favorite characters—I wasn’t happy with him stealing Corrie and Nora’s “thunder” at the end. I hope P&C continue to have Pendergast make cameos in this series, but I’d rather see him applauding Corrie for her work rather than being the one to make the case-solving pronouncement.

On the plus side, I loved the character of Homer Watts, a young, marksman sheriff with a penchant for the Old West, and I enjoyed Moorwood’s (Corrie’s boss) development throughout the book. I hope these characters continue as the series progresses. The last quarter moves at a blistering pace which kept me on the edge of my seat and madly flipping pages. While it takes a while to get off the ground, and the plot develops spider legs branching in myriad directions, The Scorpion’s Tail is an entertaining read.

I give The Scorpion’s Tail 4 STARS

As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now. The journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing—and too earth-shattering in its implications—to be forgotten. In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it. Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and, inevitably, of savagery and death.

Yet it is also far more than that.

Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us—and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.

Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it—and like none you’ve ever read before.

As someone who loves cryptid fiction, I was instantly drawn to this book. It’s quite different than anything I’ve read before, and was my first-time reading Max Brooks, the author who gave us World War Z. The book unfolds through journal entries with occasional interviews, articles on simian behavior, and book excerpts tossed in. I found the excerpts from Theodore Roosevelt’s The Wilderness Hunter particularly fascinating—was he really writing about Bigfoot? Recall this is the same man who almost cancelled an African safari to participate in the Great Snallygaster Hunt of 1909.

Because the book reads like a docudrama—especially in the beginning—it’s extremely slow to get off the ground. I actually planned to DNF it at the 12% mark on my Kindle. I stopped reading and switched to a different book, but that one didn’t work either, so I gave Devolution another chance and by the 20% mark I was hooked.

The story centers on a handful of people who have taken up residence in a small community tucked deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Greenloop has been designed to combine technical advancements with the isolation of nature—the best of living off the grid while having all the comforts of home. That philosophy goes out the window when a volcanic eruption cuts Greenloop off from civilization and technology stops working.

But that’s not the biggest problem. Its takes a while for the sasquatch of the title to make an appearance, but once they do, events kick into hyper drive. There’s a creep factor when Greenloop’s residents realize they’re not alone in the woods. A sinisterness that quickly explodes into horror. At this point it’s necessary to overlook a bit of incredulity—that the main character (Kate) would still be scribbling in her journal with the events taking place around her. That aside, I found it hard to put the book down when I had to call it a night.

Several characters experience remarkable growth during the course of this novel. Others start flat, and end flat. But how often do you get to read a Bigfoot book? Even if it’s not perfect, for anyone who holds a fascination with cryptids, this is one to read—just slog through the start.

I give Devolution 4 STARS

I recommend both these books despite a few draggy spots and—in the case of Devolution—a slow beginning. Preston & Child TOP my list of auto-buy authors (August 17th is the next Pendergast novel–WOOHOO!) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Devolution follows in the path of World War Z and makes a splash on the big screen. I’d be in line for a ticket!

61 thoughts on “Book Review Tuesday: The Scorpion’s Tail by Preston & Child, Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks #historicalmysteries #horrorsuspense

  1. You said, “But how often do you get to read a Bigfoot book?” and I had to chuckle because I have a friend who made a name for herself writing a series of them. In fact, my first published credit was when she invited me to participate in an anthology of short stories themed around Bigfoot sightings that she and her publisher put together as an accompaniment to her series.

    These both sound good, despite the slow spots. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They’re both good stories, Priscilla. Devolution definitely has horror elements that come into play, so it’s probably a good fit with your preferred genre. And any time there’s a creature (especially a cryptid) involved, I’m happy 🙂


    • Aww, thanks for the compliment, Robert.

      And as an author myself, I have to agree that getting reviews is the hardest part of the journey. I wish more readers would realize how important they are to those of us who pen tales!


  2. Bad Pendergast! Though it doesn’t surprise me that he stole the thunder, but he does need to step back when it’s not his novel ❤️. Glad that you mostly enjoyed this novel. I was looking at it the other day, as a matter of fact. Great reviews!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tessa, P&C had him do the same thing in the first novel, Old Bones. I didn’t mind it so much in that one because I thought it would be a one time thing, but having it happen again was too much. I ADORE Pendergast, but in this series I want Corrie and Nora to be the ones who get all of the accolades.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kim, I first saw Devolution on your blog and immediately pre-ordered it.
      And, yes, I am so excited for August! I also saw Bloodless is up on NetGalley, but since I own every Pendergast novel, I’m going to wait for the release. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Two of your favorite subjects–Pendergast and cryptids. Too bad they both had slow spots, but glad you enjoyed them. Lately, I’ve been watching the commercials and thinking of Bigfoot as shy but nice. Guess not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear The Scorpion’s Tail is calling you, Balroop 🙂
      I enjoyed Nora and Corrie’s first outing, Old Bones, better, but TST is still a winner. If you pick up the book, I wish you happy reading!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Oooh, I think you would probably really appreciate Devolution then, Diana. I loved the remoteness of the location. Once you get past the sluggish start, the story is a blistering page-turner!


    • I’ve really enjoyed the new Nora/Corrie books, too. I think they’re a great team together. And I agree with you about P&C too. Those guys just know how to tell a good tale.

      So glad to have you drop by! 🙂


  4. Though I always enjoy and trust your reviews, Mae, I’ll have to pass. I can’t do slow. My mind wanders too much. If I’m not engaged from the beginning, I DNF. On the plus side, it’s the first time in weeks you haven’t increased my TBR. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! There is always a plus side, Sue 🙂

      The Scorpion’s Tail has a ton of Native American legend and folklore intertwined that I think you’d enjoy, but it does have a few slower spots. At least I thought so. The first Nora/Corrie book revolved around the remains of a lost Donner Party campsite, and that one set the bar higher for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It definitely gives you pause, Jacquie. I’m always worried about bears when I hike in the woods (I’m terrified of bears). After reading Devolution, I now have to worry about Bigfoots, especially given the number of sightings in Pennsylvania, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts on both of these books, Mae. I’m not sure I could have gone back after leaving the book at 12%, but sounds like it turned out good that you did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was odd for me to go back, Jan. I think it had to do with my love of cryptids, and wanting to make the book work. I’m so glad I did give it a second chance, because it definitely paid off, but I’m not sure I would have done that with a different book.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. No fair Pendergrast swooped in at the last moment! I agree – cameos are fine, but spinoffs are for the other characters. I thought that was the World War Z (loved the movie) author. If they made a movie of this one, I’d totally go see it. Glad you didn’t DNF it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I want Pendergast to cameo but not steal the show at the end. He did that in Old Bones, the first release and I was okay with it then, because it was kind of a teaching moment for Corrie. But enough is enough. Hopefully, P & C get the message because I think a lot of readers are unhappy with them doing that (judging by reviews).

      Devolution is very cool, Teri. It would definitely make a good horror movie!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I read The Scorpion’s Tale almost as soon as it came out. Highly entertaining and although a bit slow at the beginning, it picked up speed. As usual, this pair of writers picked up on some real history and wove it into the story! I’ve read everything they’ve written, MC!

    Liked by 1 person

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