Strictly phoned-in thrills.

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THE OTHER LADY VANISHES

Second in Quick’s (The Girl Who Knew Too Much, 2017, etc.) series of thrillers about 1930s Tinseltown.

This installment follows a formula laid down in the first: A woman in jeopardy flees to Burning Cove, California, assumes a new identity, and soon finds a kindred spirit in a man with a dark past who just happens to be fiercely protective and, of course, handsome and sexy. This time, the fugitive is Adelaide Blake, who has escaped from Rushbrook, an insane asylum south of San Francisco. She hopes to elude her husband, Conrad Massey, who had her committed so he could steal her considerable inheritance. Adelaide’s late parents were scientists killed in an accident after concocting a dangerous hallucinogenic drug, Daydream. (Or was it an accident?) Rushbrook administrators, in cahoots with Conrad, were experimenting with Daydream on Adelaide, who survived thanks to her own herbal antidote. Once in Burning Cove, where she's a tea house waitress, Adelaide and readers realize how far-flung—and far-fetched—the Daydream conspiracy is. Known as a resort town where movie stars go on well-publicized retreats, Burning Cove isn’t the likeliest hideaway: Adelaide is being stalked, which is where her neighbor Jake Truett proves helpful: He was formerly in the “import-export” business, with ties to international espionage and other murky (but ultimately patriotic) endeavors. When “Psychic to the Stars” Zolanda and her assistant turn up dead in separate incidents, Adelaide suspects that someone—a dizzying array of someones, in fact—is using Daydream to make murder look like suicide (as she herself witnessed shortly before leaving Rushbrook). Conrad is glimpsed lurking about, and, as Jake and Adelaide attempt to solve the murders, they themselves become targets—taking time out to consummate their love. Although Vera, an actress, “the Most Beautiful Woman in Hollywood,” has a peripheral, mostly offstage role, this volume is surprisingly short on movie dish: Burning Cove could be any resort town.

Strictly phoned-in thrills.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-58532-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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