A compulsively readable train wreck.



Bohjalian’s latest ripped-from-the-headlines cautionary tale concerns a very poorly planned bachelor party.

Richard Chapman, a middle-aged investment banker with a lower Manhattan firm, makes one mistake that will upend his life: he hosts a bachelor party at his suburban Bronxville home for his feckless younger brother, Philip, manager of a boutique hotel in Chelsea. Richard’s wife, Kristin, a good sport about the impending high jinks, is spending the weekend at her mother’s in Manhattan with their 9-year-old daughter, Melissa, to allow the boys to be boys. Although he was expecting a stripper, Richard definitely failed to anticipate that the entertainment procured by Philip’s hotelier friends would actually be two possibly underage Russian girls and their menacing bodyguards, who forbid the men to take cellphone pictures but encourage everything else. Soon the high jinks are devolving into an outright orgy. As the men take turns with one of the girls, Sonja, the other, Alexandra, takes Richard up to the guest room, where he declines to do more than talk. Alternating with the narratives of Richard and his family is Alexandra’s chronicle of her enslavement. After her mother dies, the talented young dancer is tricked by a trusted family friend, who arranges for her to travel from her native Armenia to Moscow—for a ballet audition, she thinks. Instead, she's raped and then trafficked in Russia until she's 19, when she is removed, along with Sonja and another girl, Crystal, to New York. At the party, Sonja, who knows that the guards, Pavel and Kirill, murdered Crystal, fatally stabs Pavel with one of Kristin’s butcher knives. Kirill is shot and killed in the fray, and the girls escape. From there the plot thickens with blackmail threats, Internet defamation, employment discrimination, and marital meltdown, as Richard compounds his original error with even more implausible lapses in judgment. Character development takes a back seat in this exposé of human trafficking, and Bohjalian’s treatment often wavers between prurience and polemic.

A compulsively readable train wreck.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-53889-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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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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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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