Even readers interested in pure escapism will want to know why Vivian’s family wasn’t interested in discovering the complete...

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THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT

The niece of a scientist missing for 50 years receives a valise that could unlock the mystery of her aunt’s 1914 disappearance in Williams’ newest romance.

It’s 1964, and Bryn Mawr graduate Vivian Schuyler is working her way up from fact checker to writer at Metropolitan, the New York City magazine owned by her college friend Gogo’s father. When her great-aunt Violet’s suitcase mysteriously arrives at the post office, addressed to her, she decides to investigate her trailblazing ancestor’s life; it doesn't hurt that she begins a romantic relationship with the handsome doctor who lugs the bag up to her fifth-floor apartment. But her family proves closemouthed about Aunt Violet, a progressive thinker who married her much-older Oxford professor and moved with him to Berlin. Even worse, Vivian finds out that the doctor has also been dating Gogo, and that relationship stalls. While Vivian sorts through her love-hate relationship with Dr. Paul, she explores the suitcase and finds troves of information: proof of a love affair between Violet and an Englishman; documents belonging to an American woman and her son; and a journal penned by Violet’s husband detailing his sexual exploits. Convinced that the trail in the U.S. has run its course, Vivian continues her quest in London. As her search winds down and Vivian puts together the final pieces of information, she finally resolves the long-standing mystery and sets a course for her future. Williams competently advances the narratives of both women by alternating between Vivian's and Violet’s stories. But although both are interesting protagonists, readers will find Vivian’s wisecracking subterfuge annoying and question Violet’s naïve, subservient approach to her marriage, especially since she’s previously been presented as a strong, intelligent woman.

Even readers interested in pure escapism will want to know why Vivian’s family wasn’t interested in discovering the complete truth about Violet’s fate prior to Vivian’s investigation.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16217-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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MERCY

Despite kilt-wearing characters right out of Brigadoon, Picoult (Picture Perfect, 1995, etc.) persuasively explores a mercy killing in a small Massachusetts town and the subject of spouses who love too much. Wheelock has been home to the tradition-upholding MacDonalds and their hereditary chieftains since the 18th century, when the clan fled Scotland after the British defeated them in battle. Each clan chief has inherited more responsibilities over time, and the current laird Cam MacDonald is, like his father before him, the local chief of police. Cam yearns to travel and, though married, finds wife Allie's devotion stifling. Allie, a florist, has in turn suppressed all of her own opinions and pleasures for the sake of making Cam, whom she adores, happy. As the story begins, another MacDonald, James, has demonstrated his overwhelming love for wife Maggie in a very extreme form: James turns himself in to cousin Cam after admitting that he has smothered Maggie at her request because she was terminally ill with cancer and could no longer stand the pain. While the quality and wisdom of James's devotion to his wife will be tried in public, Allie's love for Cam will also be tested as free spirit Mia arrives in town. Mia has been everywhere and seen all the places Cam dreams of; she is also a whiz with flowers and gets immediately hired by Allie. While Allie helps James's lawyer find witnesses who will attest to his devotion to Maggie (he's now being tried for murder), Cam and Mia have an affair. A heartsick Allie learns of it, throws Cam out, sells all of his belongings, and then tries to forget him. But true love is resilient, and Allie, like James, having learned the price of being ``the one who loves more,'' will now try for greater balance. Overly predictable characters aside, Picoult does manage this time to bring trendy, headline-grabbing themes to life. (Literary Guild alternate selection)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 1996

ISBN: 0-399-14160-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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