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THE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER

Written by the numbers, but undemanding entertainment.

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A bare-chested hero of a one-time president takes on a slew of very bad jihadis, and the bullets fly.

In office, Clinton lobbed a few cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden and company, to little apparent effect. Now, teamed up with literary industrialist Patterson, his vengeance is more comprehensive. Matt Keating helms the Oval Office. A former Navy SEAL, he has a special bone to pick with Asim Al-Asheed, a sadistic one-time doctor who once crucified a captive SEAL, leaving him to hang for an hour “before the captors grew bored and slit his throat.” Not nice. Holed up in the Libyan mountains, Asim has an eager enabler in a Chinese operative named Jiang Lijun. SEALs close in, bullets are exchanged, a bomb detonates, and Asim’s family members become collateral damage. What’s a bad guy to do? Kidnap Keating’s teenage daughter, of course, but only after Keating is out of office, “a one-term president known to history as the first to lose my job against an insurgent vice president,” Pamela Barnes, who'd never liked him and defeated him in the primaries. As president, Barnes proves less interested in Mel's safety than in politics, so it’s up to Keating to work the phones with Mossad, Saudi intelligence, and the Massachusetts State Police and assemble a crew to find Asim and “separate his brain stem from his spine.” It helps that Melanie, the daughter, knows her way around tactical weapons of various kinds. She’s a tough, resourceful kid, which only serves to tick Asim off even as Jiang woos him with geopolitical calculations and fat bribes. As for Keating, well, he’s the kind of dude given to lines like, “Except for Mel, there are no innocents up there. Armed or unarmed, running away or running toward us, kill ’em all.” Guess how it all ends? There’s scarcely a moment here that can’t be seen from afar: The bad guys sneer and stab, the good guys come riding in to save the day, the sitting president fumes at having been left out of the fun, and the authors throw in genre tropes like so many grenades.

Written by the numbers, but undemanding entertainment.

Pub Date: June 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-54071-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Little, Brown and Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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