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IN THE COMPANY OF KILLERS

High marks for this one. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a long series.

Elephants and humans alike face mortal danger in this tense, complex thriller set in Africa.

Tom Klay is an American journalist in Kenya who writes about crimes against endangered species for the National Geographic–like magazine The Sovereign. Because of an earlier article he’d written, a ranger friend tells Klay, “everyone wants to see our famous elephant,” Kenya’s largest. That’s good for tourism, but now criminals want to kill the heavily protected animal and “smuggle his tusks to China whole.” Notorious poacher Ras Botha runs Africa’s ivory trade and considers elephants mere “property” to be hunted at will. “An elephant is carrying two gravestones,” Klay is told: “One for himself. One for his species.” Gravestones are needed for people as well, as Botha takes violent exception to human interference. Klay is a multilayered character who grew up in a funeral home and is well enough acquainted with death to muse that life is an unwinnable case and that “hope was certainty’s flirtatious cousin.” He tells his lover, the wonderfully named career South African prosecutor Hungry Khoza, that he’s not a good person because he’d caused a child’s death in Indonesia. His magazine’s editor-in-chief ropes Klay into moonlighting for the CIA. Then Perseus Group Media, a subsidiary of the “world’s biggest private military company” and China’s overseas security firm, buys out Klay’s financially struggling employer. By the way, China’s “Ultimate Silk Road Project” includes a planned highway through the heart of Kenya. There’s also a treasonous U.S. Navy admiral caught in a “little sex ring” and a pedophile ivory trafficker who is also a peace negotiator. The child sex trafficking theme might have been developed further or omitted altogether, but readers will sense its pervasiveness. The author’s experience as a special investigator for National Geographic informs this fast-moving debut novel.

High marks for this one. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a long series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18792-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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