Sure to please fans of governmental intrigue and fast-paced suspense; puts swift prose, commanding characterization, and...

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THE SHEPHERD'S CALCULUS

Religion and politics prove malevolent bedfellows in this serpentine debut that employs a variety of modern, headline-making conundrums.

Farrelly’s riveting political thriller begins with the momentous death of a Jesuit priest coinciding with the faltering re-election prospects for an American president. The accidental demise of Father James Ingram, president of Ignatius University, has journalist Peter Merrick upset, particularly because Ingram was his mentor. Merrick had just returned from a harrowing reporting assignment that took its toll on both his emotional and physical well-being. Meanwhile, incumbent conservative U.S. president Arthur Wyncott becomes anxious when his bid for re-election seems to be tanking as popularity surges for his Independent party opponent, Thomas Archer. Bolstered by the promised votes from proletariats and minority and Catholic demographic groups, the heat is on for Wyncott to lure those undecided voters back to his side of the political race. The church, ever in the midst of a sexual abuse scandal, has seen better days, and Wyncott soon becomes desperate to reverse the damage at any cost. Boston-based Cardinal John Mulcahy employs the nefarious head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Owen Feeney, to micromanage and assuage the damage from the ballooning multimillion-dollar scandal as more and more abuse victims come forward. Farrelly dexterously reveals plot points (crowned with a sordid coverup scheme) and allows them to develop gradually as the presidential election nears. Merrick finds himself embroiled in the melodrama after he is asked to write Ingram’s eulogy, which requires some research into his instructor’s history. In his friend’s belongings, he finds unopened, returned letters to the victims of abuse occurring at various parishes he’d been assigned to. Merrick’s diligent spadework reveals the somewhat unsurprising true culprit. Even the supporting characters and subplots are compelling, including Merrick’s wife, Emma, their marital back story, and particularly Ally Larkin, President Wyncott’s astute campaign assistant, who emerges as an ethical, clever woman whose nobility and keen sense of right and wrong help guide her-decision making, even as the stakes veer higher and the manipulative political machinations multiply. By the time this page-turner reaches maximum velocity, a fine balance has effectively been established between political intrigue and religious scandal. Though probably not a good fit for world-weary readers looking for an escape, Farrelly’s command of hot-button issues is impeccable. The priest abuse scandal seems ripped from today’s newswires as much as the desperate, calculated political maneuvers of a presidential candidate up for re-election. Readers will find themselves in for a striking, remarkable politically correct political thriller with a conscience.

Sure to please fans of governmental intrigue and fast-paced suspense; puts swift prose, commanding characterization, and contemporary hot topics to grand use.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Cavan Bridge Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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