"An ultimately fulfilling thriller with plenty of treachery, villains and heroes to go around."– Kirkus Reviews
In the third book of Winther’s (The Leopard Sings, 2011, etc.) Cat Trio series, an American lawyer’s business trip to Japan turns deadly.
Spirited, resourceful attorney Chelsea is a full partner at San Francisco firm McClosky, Warner & Jarvis. When Eric, her charming boyfriend, asks her to visit Japan and negotiate a contract for his travel company, she agrees. Although the last-minute trip fills her with trepidation, events in Japan proceed smoothly. Men wearing red peonies in their lapels whisk her from the airport via limo directly to Hayashi Associates’ headquarters while Chelsea’s luggage is sent ahead to a hotel, and Mr. Hayashi accepts everything in the contract without question. When the meeting ends, he hands her a manila envelope, sealed with wax and his personal stamp, for her to deliver to Eric, and he assigns her a man to guide her around Kyoto. Later, at her hotel, Chelsea meets Yoshi Moore, an English literature professor visiting his mother’s side of the family; to assuage their mutual loneliness in the formal, contemplative nation, they decide to have dinner and sightsee together. But Yoshi realizes that all is not well when he figures out that Hayashi’s man is yakuza—a Japanese gangster. Winther’s writing is a joy to read; she knows Japan incredibly well, from the copious tea drinking to the hidden shrines of Tokyo. (There’s also a fair amount of untranslated Japanese, but it never impedes the narrative.) Chelsea is a fun, flirty character that readers will likely root for, even when she’s less than glamorous: “Her looks weren’t up to courtroom standard, her face the hue of a sliced cucumber and the dark crescents under her eyes a reflection of her eyebrows.” The novel’s long chase, which takes Chelsea and Yoshi through the cities of Honshu Island to its rustic seaside, is enlivened by descriptions of beauty and menace: “She set the chairs down, facing each other...their frames casting long, bony shadows across the tatami.” Readers will likely forgive the slow pace of the novel’s final third, as it allows genuine romance to bloom between Chelsea and Yoshi.
A tasteful, witty and well-executed romantic thriller.
The second installment of Winther’s (The Jaguar Dances, 2010) thriller series sees an African vacation take a dangerous turn for an American couple trying to restore their marriage.
An African safari might be just the ticket to get Allison Warner’s life back on track. She’s struggling to recover from the death of her teenage son a year ago, as her husband Burke grows increasingly distant, finding solace in his law practice. The couple embark on an exciting safari along with a rather diverse and bizarre group of tourists; one in particular, handsome Englishman Jeremy Hoskins, makes Allison feel a way she has no business feeling as a married woman. She throws herself recklessly into the safari, soaking in breathtaking landscapes and exotic animals. But it soon becomes apparent that fellow tourists the Kirkpatricks are engaged in something more sinister than sightseeing. Allison and Burke, along with a ragtag gang of travelers, turn amateur detectives as they investigate the Kirkpatricks’ suspicious suitcases, bizarre midnight meetings and erratic behavior. While traveling through the Serengeti en route to their next destination, the unthinkable happens: The tour van is hijacked and the group is kidnapped. Now they must fight for their survival. Winther certainly knows how to keep the pace moving; there’s no shortage of tension as Allison and friends land in one dangerous spot after another. Winther’s well-done descriptions of Africa create a lush, vibrant setting. But the abrupt change in point of view halfway through the novel—from Allison to Burke—is jarring; it would have been better to incorporate both points of view throughout the entire work. Some parts of this story ring strikingly untrue, especially those concerning 10-year-old Trish, who behaves more like a mature teenager and is included in the group’s dangerous sleuthing activities despite her young age. Still, it’s Allison’s metamorphosis from sheltered housewife to courageous woman that truly centers this tale. Her desire to save her marriage, coupled with the lure of the forbidden, will resonate with readers and keep them cheering for her to the novel’s end.
A superb thriller with enough action and suspense to keep readers well-satisfied.
In Winther’s thriller, a vacation goes perilously awry when two friends encounter danger, intrigue and drug smugglers in the exotic resorts and mountain villages of Peru.
Along with her best friend Carrie, legal secretary Jan Fielding arrives in Peru hoping for a relaxing, glamorous vacation away from the office. But almost immediately it’s anything but peaceful. Gun-toting soldiers patrol the streets, Carrie’s suitcase is broken into while the girls are in the hotel bar and there’s something odd about their tour guide, Luis, the son of a business associate of Carrie’s father. Worse, Jan feels an attraction toward him that she doesn’t want. Nevertheless, Jan is determined to enjoy the sights of ancient and modern Peru. But as they travel to some of the country’s most intriguing locales, the girls’ relationship deteriorates as Carrie acts more and more suspicious. The appearance of the overly friendly, chameleonlike American named Brewster further convinces Jan that something’s going on. But her growing relationship with Luis makes the usually in-control secretary dangerously off-balance. When she learns Carrie’s father is smuggling drugs and Carrie is working with the DEA to uncover the drug ring, Jan wants out—now. Unfortunately, she’s “persuaded” to spy on their prime suspect, Luis, even if it costs Jan her life. Winther nicely ramps up the suspense and tension from page to page, and her details of Peru’s landscape, natives and locales pull readers into a lush South American realm. But it’s also a disturbing tale of morality as Jan struggles to come to terms with Peru’s impoverished population and their survival role in the production of cocaine. Colorful characters pepper the narrative and create a well-rounded cast. Some story threads aren’t solved and the ending feels hasty and flat. Still, it’s satisfying to see Jan figure out what’s important in life and make peace with her past while catching the bad guys.
An ultimately fulfilling thriller with plenty of treachery, villains and heroes to go around.