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

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 clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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