Two-and-a-half good stories, marred by, respectively, implausibility, sentimentality, and a desire to wrap up things too...

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THE LAST MAN

Light is shed on a host of secrets buried in the pasts of two separate but casually linked families when an elderly concentration-camp survivor, now living in the Boston area, spots a man she believes is the last unaccountable figure in a group photo of Nazis she’s carried with her for decades.

Indeed, Gerta Wahljiak, the camp survivor, is not mistaken. As a result, the plot will hinge not on whether she’s correct when she confronts Frederick Schiller, a.k.a. Friedrich Schillinghaussen, but rather on how the Schiller family deals with the exposure. And the Schillers are no ordinary family. Schiller’s wife, Sophie Naumann, is a well-known Jewish activist, which means that Kenney’s (The Son of John Devlin, 1999, etc.) whole story is made or broken on whether the reader can accept somewhat outrageous premise of a Jew and a Nazi falling in love in 1930s Germany. Further complications and mini-plots turn up when the man who’s given the initial investigative assignment in the US attorney’s office happens to be dating Schiller’s daughter, Diane, also a lawyer. It turns out that that man, David Keegan, has a family secret of his own, regarding his abusive father and dead mother, that he’s eager to uncover—so eager that it has affected his relationship with Diane. He also has a secret he’d like to keep buried, but can’t, thanks to an unscrupulous colleague who wants the job Keegan is in line for when the head of the department retires. Despite all this, it’s sentimentality rather than plot that builds throughout the narrative, so that by the end, the the tale has a numbing, touchy-feely tone. While the Schiller and Keegan family melodramas are resolved, the author writes himself into a corner with the subplot in the US attorney’s office and leaves Keegan’s professional fate hanging in the balance.

Two-and-a-half good stories, marred by, respectively, implausibility, sentimentality, and a desire to wrap up things too neatly.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-449-00588-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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