An engaging tale about a banker’s struggles to solve a family mystery.

A CLEAN DEATH

A debut novel revolves around one man’s attempts to uncover the circumstances surrounding his father’s murder in a violence-torn Third World country.

Like some strange adult fairy tale, Verheul’s book takes place in an unnamed tropical country filled with such mythical-sounding municipalities as City by the Water. It is a land peopled by characters like Captain Christmas, V6, Skipper Boutique, and Colonel Neptune. When Johan’s banker son, Oliver, first arrives, he finds everyone to be friendly and helpful; they seem genuinely sad about his father’s death. But as time passes, Oliver realizes that they all have their own motives; everyone wants money from him; and no one can or wants to really explain what happened. Lost in the exigencies of protocol, politics, and public relations, Oliver tries to follow the money trail. He learns his father had an unusually large amount of money in the bank. He discovers that Johan was the lead man on the Disarmament and Stabilization Program, a scheme to trade farm implements and other domestic items to the terrorist followers of Christmas in exchange for turning in their guns. Oliver also flirts with a woman who may or may not have been involved romantically with his father. Meanwhile in the U.S., Davey, an unemployed gun fanatic, learns about the DSP. Convinced this is a plot to take away everyone’s guns, Davey heads to the unnamed country on the dime of a barroom of fellow gun enthusiasts to convince Christmas he should keep his weapons. In this story that is part mystery, part thriller, and part introspective examination of personal values, Verheul has a real eye for how money and corruption affect the day-to-day life in a Third World nation. The author establishes believable characters, humor, and pathos in his well-paced tale through concise and efficient writing (“Christmas often wondered how the army had never been able to find them. They had tried, though. They flew helicopters over the forest—that is, if they could pay for fuel—and sent out patrols to find their base. But the forest had become their ally”). Verheul also manages to bring the distinctive cast of characters to several individual and credible epiphanies. This lively and enjoyable read should appeal to those who prefer their action thrillers with a literary twist and those who take theirs neat.

An engaging tale about a banker’s struggles to solve a family mystery.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-692-04769-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2017

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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