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FIRST LIE WINS

A genuine page-turner.

A professional con woman quickly realizes her latest job has become more personal and dangerous than planned.

Evie Porter (not her real name) is on a job in Louisiana and has successfully convinced her latest mark, Ryan Sumner, to fall for her in a whirlwind romance. All seems to be going well with Evie's investigation into Ryan's side business, a trucking company moving black market goods, until Evie meets a woman dating one of Ryan’s friends who introduces herself as Lucca Marino—Evie’s actual name. When imposter Lucca dies in a fiery car wreck and the police question Evie and Ryan as the last people to see her, an outstanding warrant pops for Evelyn Porter's arrest (though there should be no such history). It’s then that Evie understands that her current job is actually a test from her employer, Mr. Smith, who was unhappy after she busted her last assignment, and the stakes are much higher than she’d anticipated. To keep herself out of jail, Evie must pull in every favor she has accumulated during her career to outwit Mr. Smith, but she will have to first discern whether she can trust Ryan or if she has to cut and run if she wants any hope for a future. Interspersed with the current adventure are flashbacks that start 10 years earlier in which Evie recalls committing petty theft at the country club in a desperate bid for cash to pay for her mother’s cancer treatments during high school, being connected with Mr. Smith when she was caught, and the progression of jobs since then in which a host of lively side characters are introduced. YA writer Elston’s adult debut announces itself as a savvy thriller with intrigue and momentum from the first twist of Lucca’s arrival right up until the final showdowns. Evie is a smart and engaging protagonist, and her time on the run is anything but predictable.

A genuine page-turner.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593492918

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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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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