Enough melancholia to keep Dr. Phil and Oprah in ratings heaven. Like them, Weir (A Cold Christmas, 2001, etc.) will have...

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UP IN SMOKE

Three grieving women collide during a hero’s run for the presidency.

Political reporter Sean Donovan, full of Irish charm and whiskey, is in Hampstead, Kansas, covering the campaign of Governor Jack Garrett and reuniting with his recently widowed cousin Susan Wren, the hamlet’s chief of police. Equally stricken by depression are two other women, Cass Storm, a former lover of Garrett’s, whose husband and daughter died in a car crash last year, and Em Shoals, whose daughter was murdered by an abusive husband years ago when attorney Garrett got him off. As the world turns, Em plans to assassinate Garrett at the nearest whistle stop; Cass gears up for suicide; and Susan tries to solve the murder of poor Gayle Egelhoff, a woman found stuffed in a car trunk, with Sean’s business card nearby and 20-year-old ties to the candidate: Both her husband and Garrett were smoke jumpers who survived a forest fire that killed six and put Wakely Fromm, Garrett’s best friend, in a wheelchair for life. Garrett’s campaign staff tries to insulate him from the damage, but clues inexorably lead back to his inner circle, forcing a long-overdue admission, putting his campaign on hold, and finally releasing some pent-up grief.

Enough melancholia to keep Dr. Phil and Oprah in ratings heaven. Like them, Weir (A Cold Christmas, 2001, etc.) will have you wiping at a tear or two and skimming the political nonsense to get back to the hankie brigade.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-31020-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth...

THE THIRD TO DIE

In Brennan’s (Nothing To Hide, 2019, etc.) new series launch, a hard-edged female LAPD undercover cop and an ambitious FBI special agent race to catch a serial killer before he strikes again.

On paid administrative leave since an incident with a suspect went wrong, a restless Detective Kara Quinn is on an early morning run in her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, when she discovers the flayed corpse of a young nurse. In D.C., FBI Special Agent in Charge Mathias Costa is staffing the new Mobile Response Team, designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, when his boss assigns Matt and analyst Ryder Kim to Liberty Lake. The notorious Triple Killer, who murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years, has returned. With only six days to identify and catch the culprit, and only three days until he kills again, the team is “on a very tight clock.” What should be on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense turns into a slog marred by pedestrian prose (“she heard nothing except birds chirping…”), a convoluted plot slowed down by a focus on dull bureaucratic infighting, and flat character development. The sole exception is the vividly drawn Kara. Smart, angry, defensive, complicated, she fascinates both the reader and Matt ("Kara Quinn was different—and he couldn’t put his finger on why”).

Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth Salander.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7783-0944-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

WHITE HOT

Lukewarm thriller from bestselling Brown (Hello, Darkness, 2003, etc.).

Sayre Hoyle doesn’t believe her brother Danny committed suicide, and she’s returned home to prove it—but it seems nothing ever changes in Destiny, Louisiana. The small town looks the same as ever, and the same good old boys are sitting in the same vinyl booths at the same diner, conniving and backstabbing and telling lies. Too bad one of them just happens to be Sayre’s daddy, Huff Hoyle. A self-made rich man in a poor parish, he owns a smoke-belching iron foundry, a hellish place that at least provides employment for the beaten-down men of Destiny. If industrial accidents do happen in one of ’em now and then, well, that’s God’s will. Tough-talking Huff don’t want the government OSHA boys anywhere near his foundry, and that goes double for union organizers and other un-American busybodies. Sayre’s heard it all before—and still doesn’t trust either him or her creepy older brother, Chris, who took so much pleasure in tormenting her when they were young. And there’s Huff’s new right-hand man, lawyer Beck Merchant, to contend with. What exactly does Beck stand to gain by his involvement with Huff and cronies? If only he weren’t so good-looking and sexy. . . . Back to the story: Did Slap Watkins, jug-eared, degenerate scion of inbred bayou-dwellers, kill gentleman Danny in a fit of rage when Danny refused to hire Slap’s fellow parolees? Nah. Slap doesn’t have the brains or coordination to kill a June bug. Back to the subplot: Will the tyrannical Huff resort to violence when his ironworkers defy him and go out on strike? And back to the reason Sayre hates Huff: He forced her to have an abortion, performed by an incompetent doctor who tied her, screaming, to the table in his back room. And now for the reason Beck hates Huff . . . .

Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4553-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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