An enjoyable novel about sisterhood and independence—not as addicting as coffee, but still smooth and satisfying.



A woman frantically searches for her twin, who’s missing in more ways than one.

Diaz-Ludden’s (Mandela’s Reach, 2014, etc.) latest novel opens with Anne, the narrator, drinking from a porcelain teacup with cracks that have been filled with gold: “I think that if people were repaired the same way; foreheads etched with brass hairline fractures, chips of silver embedded along fingers, bolts of gold shot through hearts, then we would know the places to be careful with.” Though Anne might not be threaded by silver and gold, readers still learn about her most delicate relationships—to her Portland, Oregon, coffee shop, The Bean; and to her twin sister, Suz. The Bean is Anne’s passion—her beloved coffee addiction is well-documented throughout the book—and she’s fighting against Portland’s new infrastructure plans, which threaten the store’s location. But even more precarious is her relationship with Suz, who technically co-owns the shop but whose abandonment of the business has created distance in their once tight bond (always fascinated by Nelson Mandela, Suz has moved to South Africa to do humanitarian work). The story begins when Suz, in town visiting from Johannesburg, seemingly disappears after a drunken night out with her sister. Anne, their friends, her brother and father try to find her but to no avail, and Anne’s memories of the last night they had together are hazy. Though she frequently syncs up with Suz—a side plot involves Anne suddenly being able to inhabit Suz’s body, an ability she’s had since they were quite young—that superpower is of little help. To find her sister, Anne turns to Suz’s online presence and discovers the secret life her beloved sister has been living. The writing is polished in this strong narrative, though there are a few clichéd lines: “Coffee, like life, is complicated” or “Besides, the world is more comprehensible when things stay exactly where they belong.” Anne and Suz’s syncing plot feels unnecessary, but the narrative’s slow unraveling—particularly related to how the twins’ mother lived and died with alcoholism—strengthens its characters, especially Anne, whose actions to save her sister and store make more sense in light of her mom’s revealed history. At times, though, it feels like the author bit off more than she can chew: She dedicates quite a bit of energy to Suz’s obsession with Mandela, a well-worn idea that doesn’t feel fully realized here. Still, Diaz-Ludden captures the casual camaraderie of coffee shop clientele and the easy dialogue between family and friends.

An enjoyable novel about sisterhood and independence—not as addicting as coffee, but still smooth and satisfying.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2014

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.


FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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