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BENEATH THE SURFACE

King Lear goes to the beach. Yes.

When the wealthy patriarch of a family business invites his children on a trip from Newport Beach to Catalina Island aboard his new yacht, Rouda fans will know to buckle their seat belts.

John and Ted Kingsley have hated each other for years, their mutual antipathy sharpened by John’s success in forcing Ted out of Kingsley Global Enterprises a few years ago. So both they and their wives—John’s wife, ruthless lawyer Rachel, and Paige, a successful Orange County food-bank fundraiser who used to work alongside Ted before he was bounced—are truly dismayed to learn that the invitation from Richard Kingsley, whom John identifies as “one of Southern California’s biggest sinners,” and Serena Kingsley, his fifth wife, for an overnight cruise aboard their yacht, Splendid Seas, includes all four of them. In fact, it’s even worse, as they realize when Sibley, the bad-girl sister they haven’t thought about for years, drops into the party with her boyfriend, knife-carrying creep Colson Kelly. Richard’s goal of observing his children individually and interactively in order to decide whom to appoint as Kingsley CEO when he steps down provides a nominal structure for the journey, but really, it’s all about the dish. Although the characters are paper-thin, Rouda spikes the voyage with so many excruciating and perfectly timed revelations about John and Ted and Sibley and Serena and Richard that readers will be hugging themselves in anticipation, satisfaction, and relief that this isn’t their family. When long-deferred violence finally breaks out, they may be divided between shock and a sense of anticlimax. No matter: The hits keep on coming.

King Lear goes to the beach. Yes.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781662511929

Page Count: 269

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

A one-eyed boy becomes a monster’s prey in this chilling tale of missing children.

Thirteen-year-old Missouri boy Joseph “Patch” Macauley was born with one eye, so he wears an eye patch and imagines himself a pirate. In 1975, he sees a masked man assaulting a girl in the woods. He attacks the man and saves her, but the predator kidnaps him instead. Patch eventually wakes in total darkness in a cellar where a different girl secretly visits him, heard but always unseen. He learns that her name is Grace and that there have been other girls down there before. Grace paints vivid word pictures of the places she’s seen and of stories by authors like Steinbeck. “Pray and stay alive,” she whispers to Patch. Eventually he escapes, but she is nowhere to be found. Searching for Grace is the underlying thread in a complicated quest that takes unexpected turns over the years and might well bring heartbreak. Meanwhile, the bodies of three girls turn up locally, and their parents grieve. Is the town doctor responsible for their deaths? A local school photographer? Both? Patch paints an image of Grace based only on what he’d heard from her in the cellar; then come more paintings and displays in an art gallery—an implausible achievement for an untrained artist. Meanwhile, Grace may be anywhere, and he must find her whether alive or dead. By now an adult, he “pinball[s]” from state to state, meeting with “a dozen families looking for a dozen lost girls.” To sustain himself he robs banks with an unloaded flintlock, and he shares his loot with organizations that are looking for missing children. He has “reasoned the truest proof of life [is] pain,” and he vows that he will die before he quits his search. This is much more than a whodunit, though it fills that bill well. It is also a richly layered tale of love, loss, and hope.

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593798874

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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