Despite a few mild threats, nothing to suggest any actual lions in this den.

IN THE LION'S DEN

The second in Bradford’s House of Falconer series about a retail dynasty.

By 1889, James Falconer, soon to turn 21, has made himself indispensable to commerce impresario Henry Malvern while dreaming of founding his own retail empire. As in the first installment, Master of His Fate (2018), James’ extended family is still warm and supportive. The decor of every dwelling, be it ever so bourgeois, is still lavishly detailed. And James is still exhibiting his preference for older women. His lover Mrs. Ward, age 31, left London for health reasons, but now there is Irina, age 22, fetching great-granddaughter of a Russian ambassador. One senses immediately, despite their speedy progress from attraction to a perfunctory “insert sex scene here,” that Irina is just a place holder—until James and Alexis, Henry’s daughter, between whom an attraction has been brewing since Master, can resolve their differences. Which seem to have mostly to do with competition for her father’s good graces. To Alexis' extreme resentment, James has effectively usurped her status as Malvern’s chief deputy since Alexis has chosen to remain, grieving, in the Kentish cottage her late fiance, Sebastian Trevalian, built for her before his untimely demise. While avoiding her own family, Alexis is still involved with Sebastian’s clan, which inhabits the large Trevalian country estate nearby—and she’s hurt when the Trevalians avert a potential scandal, involving an unwed mother, without her help. Too often, such misunderstandings take the place of actual conflict. The mystery of who hired thugs to attack James and a friend, left dangling in Vol. I, is also too abruptly solved here. As the undisputed heiress, however capriciously she treats her father, to the company James can only claim sweat equity in, Alexis is clearly a more suitable match for the budding tycoon. So of course they will end up together—it's just a matter of how much window dressing gets in the way.

Despite a few mild threats, nothing to suggest any actual lions in this den.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-18742-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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