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 Spotlight: I Am Mayhem by Sue Coletta #preorder #womensleuths #crimefiction #bookreview

An open book with rays and orbs of light shooting from the pages

Today I’m shining the spotlight on the very talented, Sue Coletta, who is releasing the long-anticipated fourth novel in her Mayhem series. Shawnee Daniels makes a great MC, and “Mayhem” is one of my favorite book villains. Mayhem’s crows—yes, crows—Edgar, Allan, and Poe, also deserve a mention because they are every bit characters in their own right. Especially Poe.

I was lucky enough to score an ARC of this novel, and am sharing my 5 STAR review at the end of this post. Be sure to take a look and be ready to ONE-CLICK!

Book Description:

As bloody, severed body parts show up on her doorstep, Shawnee Daniels must stop the serial killer who wants her dead before she becomes the next victim.

But can she solve his cryptic clues before it’s too late? Or will she be the next to die a slow, agonizing death?


With crows stalking her every move, Shawnee can barely function. Things worsen when body parts show up on her doorstep. An unstoppable serial killer wants her dead. Mr. Mayhem threatens to murder everyone she loves, sending Shawnee a piece at a time.

As Mr. Mayhem sits in judgement, his cryptic clues must be solved before the final gavel drops. The game rules are simple—win the unwinnable or submit to a slow, agonizing death.

When Shawnee tries to fight back, she discovers her very existence is based on lies. But the full impact of the truth might become the headstone on Shawnee’s grave.

Preorder on Amazon for 99c.

Book will be delivered to your device on April 20, 2021 (release day).

Tirgearr Publishing

Sue Coletta

Author Bio:
Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and Expertido.org named her Murder Blog as one of the “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net” (Murder Blog sits at #5). Sue also blogs at the Kill Zone, a multi-award-winning writing blog.

Sue lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and writes two serial killer thriller series (Tirgearr Publishing) and true crime (Rowman & Littlefield Group, Inc.). And recently, she appeared on an Emmy award-winning true crime show. Learn more about Sue and her books at: https://suecoletta.com


MY REVIEW:
Wow! I’ve followed this series from book one, and it just keeps getting better. Coletta has penned a wonderfully unique and memorable set of characters—Shawnee Daniels, a (reformed?) cat burglar/computer hacker currently working for the police, her detective boyfriend, and Mr. Mayhem—serial killer, and chameleon-like adversary. Oh, and there are crows. Not just ordinary crows, but birds who are characters in their own right. Mayhem has three crows who do his bidding—Edgar, Allan, and Poe. 

Poe, in particular, is a scene stealer. A charmer with Mayhem, Poe is oil to Shawnee’s water. Nails on a blackboard which makes for intriguing interaction.

In this the fourth book of the series, Coletta builds on the cat-mouse relationship between Mayhem and Shawnee. There is history between these characters, deeply-rooted, so it does help to have an understanding of that going into the novel, especially as this story picks up where book three left off. Stakes are high right off the bat with murder on the menu. As the story progresses, cold-blooded killings mingle with mysticism and Native American beliefs, customs, and folklore. For those who have followed the series, Shawnee’s family background is fleshed out, along with that of Mr. Mayhem, bringing surprising results.  

Shawnee and Mayhem are polar opposites—one street-tough, and gritty, the other cultured but deadly. Parts of this story left me biting my fingernails to see how everything would play out, while other sections had me misty eyed. The suspense is great, but the character development is what makes this one so exceptional. The story wraps with a solid ending but does leave wiggle room should the author choose to continue. As a fan of the series, I can only hope she does. If you enjoy strong characters in a fast-paced tale layered with folklore and Native American themes (think skinwalkers and Tony Hillerman), you won’t want to miss this novel.

*I received a complimentary ARC for an honest review


Intrigued? I hope my FIVE STAR review enticed you. You can grab your own copy of I Am Mayhem from Amazon. Release date is April 20, but you can pre-order through the link below. An excellent read for a mere .99c.

Thanks for visiting today. Please drop Sue a line or two in the comments to help her celebrate her upcoming release.


Preorder on Amazon for 99c.