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PRESUMED GUILTY

A terrifyingly detailed, engrossing tale about what happens when the judicial hammer comes down.

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In this debut legal novel, an innocent Wall Street executive becomes the subject of a misguided criminal investigation.

New York, 2012. Emma Simpson, the manager of the Manhattan office of the hedge fund Otis Capital, dashes off an email before leaving work for the day. It’s a routine missive encouraging the members of her team to follow the company’s document retention policy. Then she drives home to her husband and two children on their Hudson Valley farm. One year later, Otis Capital is the target of an insider trading investigation conducted by the United States Attorney’s office, and Emma—without realizing it—has become its primary person of interest. Word comes down that she needs to lawyer up. “Did she really need her own big-shot defense lawyer?” wonders Emma. “The company already had a very expensive law firm with a bunch of former federal prosecutors handling the subpoena. Was there something they weren’t telling her?” And after all, she didn’t do anything wrong. Regardless, Emma finds herself in the sights of two ambitious federal prosecutors—one on the fast track to a prominent career and one afraid that he isn’t—and it might not matter who, if anyone, is actually guilty. The wheels of justice are in motion, and Emma is trapped directly in their path. Shapiro’s prose is clean and fluid, capturing the intricacies of finance law and the emotional states of her characters with equal clarity: “Emma stared at the empty yellow pad in front of her and tapped her pencil on it repeatedly. She felt numb and disconnected from her surroundings. It was as if she had just discovered she’d been living in a simulation for the past forty-five years with no ability to control a destiny that was simply the product of algorithms in someone else’s computer program.” The author demonstrates a convincing familiarity with Wall Street and financial prosecution, and the characters, even the minor ones, are memorably constructed. Emma has frustratingly little control over her own story, which robs the book of some of its potential dynamism but illustrates for readers how powerless an innocent person often is before the law.

A terrifyingly detailed, engrossing tale about what happens when the judicial hammer comes down.

Pub Date: March 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63730-640-6

Page Count: 278

Publisher: New Degree Press

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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DAUGHTER OF MINE

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

The loss of her police officer father and the discovery of an abandoned car in a local lake raise chilling questions regarding a young woman’s family history.

When Hazel Sharp returns to her hometown of Mirror Lake, North Carolina, for her father’s memorial, she and the other townspeople are confronted by a challenging double whammy: As they’re grieving the loss of beloved longtime police officer Detective Perry Holt, a disturbing sight appears in the lake, whose waterline is receding because of an ongoing drought—an old, unidentifiable car, which has likely been lurking there for years. Hazel temporarily leaves her Charlotte-based building-renovation business in the capable hands of her partners and reconnects with her brothers, Caden and Gage; her Uncle Roy; her old fling and neighbor, Nico; and her schoolfriend, Jamie, now a mother and married to Caden. Tiny, relentless suspicions rise to the metaphorical surface along with that waterlogged vehicle: There have been a slew of minor break-ins; two people go missing; and then, a second abandoned car is discovered. The novel digs deeper into Hazel’s family history—her father was a widow when he married Hazel’s mother, who later left the family, absconding with money and jewels—and Miranda, a consummate professional when it comes to exposing the small community tensions that naturally arise when people live in close proximity for generations, exposes revelation after twisty revelation: “Everything mattered disproportionately in a small town. Your success, but also your failure. Everyone knows might as well have been our town motto.”

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781668010440

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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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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