As always, loaded with smart technological prose and an open ending that suggests more to come.


The Enigma Always

From the The Enigma Series series , Vol. 6

In the latest volume in Breakfield and Burkey’s (The Enigma Stolen, 2015, etc.) techno-thriller series, a disreputable doctor’s life-extension project calls for abductions and human experiments with unwilling participants.

Su Lin nearly died from an accident that caused her to lose her memory. Formerly known as Master Po, she’d been an expert in cybertechnologies. When someone tries to kidnap Su Lin, a digital-security team called the R-Group suspects that the baddies are after Su Lin’s laptop. But the woman can’t remember what’s stored on her computer or how to bypass its complex encryption. She may have a connection to Dr. Xavier Pekoni, whose Fountain of Youth project—complete with unsanctioned human testing—had devastating side effects for its test subjects. A U.S. agency hires the R-Group to find Pekoni, convinced he’s attempting to finalize his research to increase human life spans. The authors excel at breezing through exposition, quickly setting up their newest tale: this time around, returning R-Group lovebirds Jacob and Petra are separated, the latter having isolated herself due to her physical and mental scars. Familiar bad guys abound as well: Jacob’s freelance work inadvertently entangles him with Zara of the villainous Russian Dteam. Zara, meanwhile, is on the run from Chairman Chang, from whom she stole €5 million in diamonds. There’s mystery throughout, as readers don’t immediately learn why Pekoni is trying to snatch Su Lin or if her teenlike behavior (she’s 50-something) can be remedied. By now there are enough recurring characters that many have paired up romantically, but Breakfield and Burkey still manage to churn out fresh interactions between the couples, as with Jacob and Petra, who, during a conference call with the R-Group, privately message one another to discuss their fractured relationship. The authors have likewise mastered scenes that are simultaneously cool and comical: Jacob’s tracking program is “his secret sauce,” and Zara gets help fencing the jewelry from her boss, Dmitry, who, by sheer happenstance, offers to sell the goods to rightful owner Chang.

As always, loaded with smart technological prose and an open ending that suggests more to come.

Pub Date: March 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946858-18-4

Page Count: 376

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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.


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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