A disturbing story of madness and fortitude that grabs your attention from Page 1.

A GINGERBREAD HOUSE

McPherson shows four women’s lives colliding in a life-or-death struggle in Scotland.

Tash Dodd works at her parents’ trucking firm, where she stumbles upon something that horrifies her. Apparently her father’s business includes human trafficking. She plans to force him to turn over the business to her and then turn him in. Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Nine Lives League, Ivy, a middle-aged woman seeking a cat for companionship, meets Kate, who says that Ivy looks exactly like her sister, Gail, and, suggesting that they might be twins, invites her to their unusual home in Hephaw, West Lothian. Martine is a woman of mixed race who’s searched her whole life for the identity of her father. At a genealogical meeting, she meets Kate, who claims to know who her father is and invites her to her house to meet her sister, Gail. Laura, an attractive woman in search of a fairy-tale life, tries an unusual dating service and is invited to a dinner dance at the home of Kate and her sister. Ivy, Martine, and Laura are all taken captive, drugged, and kept in a dank, putrid basement. Although they’ve all been reported missing, the police don’t look very hard until Tash, who’s been working for various van companies, goes on the run after her father refuses to give up control and ends up in an apartment overlooking an odd house in Hephaw. Trapped while investigating, she and the three brave captives plot to escape.

A disturbing story of madness and fortitude that grabs your attention from Page 1.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7278-5001-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A richly atmospheric thriller with a plucky heroine.

THE LAST TO VANISH

When a man arrives at a North Carolina mountain hotel looking for clues to his journalist brother’s recent disappearance, the trail that he and the inn’s young manager start to follow leads them back to a sequence of unsolved cases, decades apart, that involve other missing hikers and that may be rooted in the town’s deepest secrets.

Labeled by the national press as “the most dangerous town in North Carolina,” Cutter’s Pass is a pretty place in which hikers have over the years had a tendency to vanish. There were the Fraternity Four, as a group of students came to be called, who disappeared in 1997; Alice Kelly in 2012; Farrah Jordan in 2019; and Landon West in 2022. To Abby Lovett, however, Cutter’s Pass, and in particular the town’s hotel, the Passage Inn, has become her adopted home and her refuge from a troubled past. As manager of the inn, Abby has come to know everybody, to love the wild mountain trails, and to learn that appearances can be deceptive. “Things here were designed to appear more fragile than they were,” she notes of the inn’s folksy touches, “but reinforced, because they had to be. We lived in the mountains, on the edge of the woods, subject to the whims of weather and the forces of nature.” In economical yet elegant descriptions, author Miranda repeatedly conjures up this untamed natural world even as she unspools a labyrinthine plot that has its roots in the distant past but that originates in the present when Trey West appears one stormy night at the Passage Inn. “He believed he could find them all,” Abby realizes when she and Trey, drawn to each other and into the quest for Trey’s missing brother, find a clue that links the most recent mystery to each of the ones that went before. The novel’s characters are deftly sketched and its suspense is nicely tightened, though the plot finally loses itself somewhat in a tangle of strained connections.

A richly atmospheric thriller with a plucky heroine.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982147-31-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books/Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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