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BAD TOURISTS

A satisfying summer thriller—but it could have been so much more.

Three British women whose friendship was forged from trauma take a luxury holiday to celebrate a divorce—but someone has a different agenda.

After defining herself for years as the perfect wife and mother, Darcy is still reeling from her recent divorce. She decides to use part of the settlement to book a luxury vacation in the Maldives for herself and her two best friends, Kate and Camilla. Theirs is no ordinary friendship; they found each other just a few years ago, tied together by their different connections to a mass slaying 22 years earlier at an English guesthouse. The culprit turned himself in and died in prison, but as the anniversary approaches, it seems that all the women have reservations about whether justice was truly served. And despite the gorgeous ocean views and the bottomless cocktails, their vacation is not lacking in drama. They befriend a young woman on her honeymoon who can’t quite conceal the bruises from her husband’s fists and a suave dance instructor who goes missing after sharing a night of passion with Camilla. Is there a link between the long-ago massacre and the current acts of violence, or are the friends stuck in the trauma of their pasts? The setup to the story—the book’s first and second acts—is exquisitely tension-filled. The novel moves among the perspectives of several characters, and their psychological layers—particularly that of the “survivor” who, in her own words, is “barely existing”—give the book a depth and complexity that belie the basic thriller structure. The third act, however, falls firmly into the realm of the sensational. True, there’s a big twist, and it’s surprising, but the superficiality of the solution and the extremity of the final action scene are disappointing after the thoughtful scaffolding.

A satisfying summer thriller—but it could have been so much more.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781668058848

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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