A character-driven tale that maintains its sincerity even in its most nerve-wracking moments.

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FATAL OPTION

In Beakey’s (Double Abduction, 2007) thriller, an investigation into a tragic accident during a blizzard reveals a string of secrets—including a murder.

When Stephen Porter’s 17-year-old daughter, Sara, calls to tell him that she’s stranded, he willingly braves a relentless blizzard to rescue her. He tracks down the address that she gives him, and he’s worried that she’s not at a girlfriend’s house, as she’d earlier claimed, but at the home of a man in his late 20s. That man is Kieran O’Shea, who’s 10 years Sara’s senior and a teacher at her school. Sara is tutoring his younger, autistic brother, Aidan, but tonight she and Kieran were spending some time alone. Sara, however, learns more about Kieran than she wanted to know, particularly after she happens upon a box of medication. She decides to go home soon after he hops in his truck to find Aidan, who ran out of the house; she calls Stephen when her own car fails to start. A subsequent mishap results in a death, and the person responsible is suddenly at the mercy of a witness. Investigating detective John Caruso believes that the incident may also tie in with the recent murder of a local teacher—and the resulting coverups only lead to more violence. The tension starts high in this novel, with a description of the sounds of a winter storm (“The blizzard winds hit the bedroom windows with brute-force, the wump sounds registering in the recesses of Stephen Porter’s mind”). Beakey parallels his thriller plot with an engaging family drama; for example, it’s revealed that Stephen’s wife, Lori, died when her car struck a guardrail—a collision that the insurance company is now claiming was suicide. Kieran, meanwhile, is haunted by his late, abusive mother, while Stephen’s son, Kenneth, is the target of a bully. Beakey maintains the suspense by continually hinting at what characters may or may not have done, and Sara and Stephen are both in dire straits by the final act. It’s all packaged within a taut narrative that constantly reminds readers of the bitter-cold weather that constrains the characters, as when Stephen, without a car, breaks “into an unsteady near-run, heedless of the hard-packed ice underneath his feet.”

A character-driven tale that maintains its sincerity even in its most nerve-wracking moments.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68261-154-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Post Hill Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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