A gripping historical romance/thriller with an informed political bent.

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ALL THE GOLD BENEATH THE MOON

Greed, treachery, and unexpected kindness surround a power struggle over an early 20th-century gold mine in this debut novel.

Sadie Rose Wheeler believes her parents died in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. But then she receives a letter informing her that the millionaire Henry Crabtree, who has died, named her as his daughter and heir to the Crabtree Mine in Goldfield, Nevada. Like the parents who adopted her, Henry and his wife were a white-Chinese pairing. Sadie appears white but has uniquely shaped green eyes. Her ethnicity is not the only thing people try to guess about her as the young woman stubbornly manages her newly acquired gold mine alone, paying her workers in real dollars instead of scrip; supervising the dirty, dangerous operations herself; and caring about the men—in contrast to the other gold barons, who are trying to suppress another labor riot. Henry’s jealous wife, Parthena, wants the mine and employs union agitator James McKenna first to convince, then to force Sadie to sign over the land. Sadie—facing off against Parthena, McKenna, union-busting sexist capitalists, and her shady suitor, Pierce Langston—finds unexpected help in the form of a handsome opium addict named Nick Cain. Double-dealing and murder swirl around Sadie as she mourns the death of her infant son and seeks the truth about her unnamed mother, who came to America seeking the “Gum Shan”—the gold mountain—which may turn out to be something more than just where the precious metal can be found. Though fast-moving and with an economy of description, Love’s novel evokes the danger and adventure of this clash of the Wild West and Eastern radicalism in beautiful, cinematic language that is at times reminiscent of James Dickey. (“Blue moonlight colored the whole world in loneliness”; “She peeked through her arm” at McKenna, “as if stealing a look from a familiar hiding place.”) The main characters, including villains Parthena and McKenna, are complex, with a heart lurking somewhere, while Sadie and especially Nick have their flaws. It is rather like The Grapes of Wrath meets On the Waterfront. The author researched the era’s history to use correct terminology—scrip; prostitutes’ cribs. And he spices the dialogue with a phonetic vernacular that enhances the characters without becoming distracting. The mix of humor, sarcasm, and menace among the miners and the owners, juxtaposed with tender moments between Nick and Sadie, is at turns riotously funny and heartwarming, making this a gratifying page-turner. Unfortunately, there seems to be a rush toward the conclusion, as if Love became exhausted. The evocative descriptions drop away, leaving blocks of dialogue with screenplay terms (“[silence]”). Nick’s last, fateful decision is not sufficiently developed, causing the final chapter to abruptly descend like a curtain. There are also some distracting misspellings (“light shinning”; “fill out of his chair”) and punctuation errors (“Ghosts won’t hurt you, “Nick said) that need tweaking.

A gripping historical romance/thriller with an informed political bent.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 377

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2018

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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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