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!


BLURB:
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.

MY REVIEW:
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

BLURB:
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.

MY REVIEW:
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!

Book Reviews: Gideon’s Corpse by Preston and Child, The Betrayed Wife by Kevin O’Brien

Hi, friends. I hope you had an enjoyable weekend and that your Tuesday is off to a good start. We had friends over on Friday for a small pool party then spent our weekend gearing up for a family reunion we’re hosting this coming weekend.

We had a scare on Saturday when we walked out front and realized our door was standing open. It was a windy day and when I opened it (about twenty minutes earlier) I must not have shut it tightly. The problem is I have a totally indoor cat. To say that I was spastic is putting it mildly. I looked all over for Raven, starting with her “safe spot” under our bed then went room to room while hubby looked outside. Five minutes of frantic searching without results and I was on the verge of blubbering. I decided to take one more look under the bed and there she was, tucked at the end, blissfully unaware I was seconds from a meltdown. Needless to say, she has been getting lots of extra fussing and cuddles.

And now on to this week’s book reviews, both of which garner five big glitzy stars from me.

Book cover for Gideon's Corpse by Preston & Child shows title in large lettering overlaying a file with tear, nuclear symbol in backgroundGideon’s Corpse
by Preston & Child
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’re probably aware I’m a HUGE fan of the writing team of Preston and Child. Gideon’s Corpse is the second novel in the Gideon Crew series (currently at five novels). I read the first when it was released a few years ago but wasn’t immediately smitten. Then a certain someone (ahem…Marcia) convinced me I needed to give book two a try.

Dr. Gideon Crew is a unique combination of con artist, ex-professional thief, and brilliant physicist. Recruited by a mysterious and powerful organization to run interference in impossible situations he routinely lands in a melting pot of danger. In Gideon’s Corpse, Crew finds himself acting as a liaison to the FBI when a former colleague and top nuclear scientist takes a family hostage at gunpoint. The outcome leads to a terrorist plot to vaporize a major American city in ten days—and the clock is ticking.

I remembered very little about the first in the series but had zero difficulty falling into the story. It starts off with a bang (the hostage situation) and moves at a blistering pace. Gideon pairs up with a strait-laced FBI agent. Much of the fun of the novel is watching the two work together, gaining respect for the other’s methods and for each other.

Clues build in a clever, twisty manner but just when you think you know where the plot is headed it does a complete 180 leading to an explosive, action-packed conclusion.

If you like your characters with a mix of trickster and quick-thinking brilliance, Gideon Crew is your man. He has a good heart, sometimes makes stupid mistakes, but somehow always manages to land on his feet. I will definitely be reading the rest in this series (thank you, Marcia!). Preston and Child once again deliver the kind of intelligent thriller that has become their trademark.

Amazon Link
Genre: Terrorism Thrillers > Medical Thrillers


Book cover for The Betrayed Wife by Kevin O'Brien shows the face and neck of a blond-haired woman from the nose downThe Betrayed Wife
by Kevin O’Brien

I can always count on Kevin O’Brien to deliver a juicy thriller, and he does not disappoint with his latest, The Betrayed Wife. This book has it all­—a not-so-perfect marriage, illicit affairs, dark family secrets, suspicious deaths, and an illegitimate child.

Shelia O’Rouke has had to overlook a number of her husband’s indiscretions, so when sixteen-year-old Eden shows up claiming to be his daughter, Shelia tries to make the best of it. She welcomes the girl into her home and encourages her three children to do the same. But Eden has an insolent attitude and a creepy boyfriend. It isn’t long before things start to go horribly wrong. Someone tampers with the breaks on Shelia’s car, rigs her washer so that she is almost electrocuted, and tries to poison her. An obnoxious tenant moves into the house next door, and an anonymous caller starts sending Shelia and her teenage son, Steve, mysterious texts. O’Brien has a knack for writing teenagers, and he juggles several successfully in this novel.

As usual, the deftly-orchestrated plot serves up plenty of misdirection to keep the reader guessing. Although I did (eventually) decipher the ending and motive prior to the conclusion, I followed several false trails before putting the pieces together. There are characters to hate, characters to love, and a multi-layered mystery that ties up neatly at the end. Riveting from start to finish, the book works as a psychological thriller, domestic thriller, and page-turning suspense novel. Finished in two sittings and highly recommended!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Domestic Thrillers > Serial Killer Thrillers