A topical crime thriller makes up for deficiencies in suspense with sensitive character portraits.



An international thriller explores the impact of counterfeit pharmaceutical smuggling.

In this, her fourth novel, former political scientist Holden draws on her expertise to weave a tale of global intrigue. After a prologue in Nigeria shows the death of Toyosi, a young diabetic girl, the action shifts to New Jersey where Frank Hughes, an art professor, grieves over the AIDS-related death of his lover Earl. Soon Frank too is dead in an apparent suicide. What links these two stories is the possibility that both Toyosi and Earl died from taking counterfeit medication, perhaps supplied by the same global syndicate. Could Frank have been killed because he knew too much? Unraveling this mystery falls to several innocent bystanders, notably the young painter Cece Gardner, Frank’s friend and colleague, and Babatunde Akanbi, Toyosi’s computer-whiz older brother. Although Cece and Babatunde never meet, their diligent work takes them to the heart of the mystery, ultimately placing each in grave danger. While the final quarter of the novel reveals Holden’s skill with action scenes, for the most part she favors suspense over surprise, revealing early on the main villains’ identities and the basic details of their crimes. This mode of exposition poses specific challenges and the narrative sometimes slackens as characters struggle to discover what is, for the reader, old news. Added strain on the plot, especially in the New Jersey scenes, comes from the excessive proliferation of minor characters, mostly as foils for the heroes. What makes this counterpointing unnecessary is the genuine sensitivity with which Holden draws her protagonists. Holden’s academic experience evidently includes minute observation of the culture of academic institutions, and nearly every detail in her portraits of Cece and Frank rings true. Her vivid portrayal of Frank is especially impressive given that it is almost entirely constructed from suggestive details retained in the memories of the character’s surviving friends. By the end of the novel, readers will feel as if they, too, have spent years of collegiality and friendship with this gruff, determined figure. Exploring Frank and Cece’s multifaceted personalities is the novel’s most genuine and compelling mystery.

A topical crime thriller makes up for deficiencies in suspense with sensitive character portraits.

Pub Date: March 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450226912

Page Count: 256

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2010

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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