A complicated, engrossing love story that focuses on two gifted stonemasons.

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Build Me a Tower

An old hand falls for his young business partner in this fiction debut.  

Theophilous “Theo” MacBain is a well-known stonemason. He’s pushing 60 and has a solid career reputation, though his status as a family man is less impressive. His business partner, Hanson “Hannie” Blair, a knockout, also happens to be a talented mason (she “picked up on the right way to do stone from the start,” Theo recalls). She’s a young, beautiful, and vigorous woman who unfortunately has a history of picking disastrous men. Despite a substantial age difference, Theo and Hannie find themselves sharing a mutual attraction that is only reinforced when he saves her life. He represents integrity, honesty, stability, and strength, while Hannie embodies a dream for him, a second chance at love and a family (“Hell, I could still give her kids,” Theo muses. “She’d want kids. I guessed”). The couple work their way toward a relationship, though their May-December age difference remains a constant undercurrent. Hannie’s past choices also continue to haunt them; she seems unable to fully break free from her self-destructive tendencies. Throughout their ups and downs, Theo relies on the support of Beth Hennessey, another independent woman who could have been more in other circumstances. Will Theo and Hannie ultimately find happiness? The novel is a true character study. McRaven (The Classic Hewn-Log House, 2014, etc.) builds a compelling narrative around an unlikely hero: an aging, reticent stonemason whose rough exterior hides a sharp intellect and reflective nature. Theo and Hannie’s relationship is satisfyingly nuanced, as the author probes the issues that hide beneath the surface tensions created by long days at work or jealousy. Theo’s steady friendship with Beth, which reappears throughout the tale, effectively counterbalances an otherwise complex love life. The evocative descriptions of days spent outdoors under wide-open Western skies, fly-fishing or riding horses, are reminiscent of the work of Norman Maclean or Jim Harrison. And McRaven’s extensive experience as a stonemason comes in handy as he describes laying “a double wall for free-standing work, usually with a taper, or rake, in at the top” or putting in a “through-stone, or tie-stone to keep the two halves together.” Thankfully, the observations on stonework stay limited enough to be intriguing rather than repetitive.

A complicated, engrossing love story that focuses on two gifted stonemasons. 

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944962-11-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Secant Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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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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