A mystery with a sharp protagonist whose appeal is matched by that of the characters surrounding him.

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JACK OF HEARTS

A DETECTIVE JACK STRATTON NOVEL

Former cop Jack Stratton takes a case in his parents’ gated community in this installment of Greyson’s (And Then She Was Gone, 2016, etc.) mystery series.

Jack had planned to spend a few days with his father and mother, Ted and Laura Stratton, at their Florida home, where he planned to finally introduce them to his longtime girlfriend, Alice Campbell, in person. Unfortunately, Lady, Jack’s 120-pound king shepherd dog, becomes a last-minute traveling companion, as the proposed kennel they’d chosen turned out to be rather dismal. But there are rules at the Strattons’ gated community, Orange Blossom Cove, including a requirement that dogs must always be leashed. This isn’t always easy to do with Lady, which peeves the Strattons’ neighbors. Jack’s vacation seems to be over before it starts when Laura, along with her book-club pals, insists that he help stop the Orange Blossom Cove Bandit, who’s responsible for a string of recent thefts. After the bandit attempts to burgle the Stratton house, Jack agrees to look into it, if only not to disappoint his mother. Alice, meanwhile, wants to make a good impression on her boyfriend’s parents, so she takes part in a ladies’-night stakeout with Laura and her local friends. But while questioning community residents, Jack uncovers evidence of a breaking and entering at the home of a recently deceased man whose lethal heart attack may have actually been murder. Soon other dead bodies turn up, and the desperate killer’s next target may be someone close to Jack. Greyson’s mystery is relatively lighthearted thanks to a motley bunch of diverting characters. Laura’s friends are particularly amusing, as when they concoct a scheme to catch the bandit red-handed that entails doing something that’s not entirely legal. (Jack later refers to the women as “the Golden Girl Commando Squad.”) Lady, too, is a fully developed character; the colossal canine is generally used as comic relief (as when it seemingly blames Jack for its time in a cargo hold), but she’s also fiercely protective. There are occasional comic antics, as when Jack learns the hard way that Ted’s story about a wild gator tromping through the community is true. But there are plenty of serious subplots, as well, including a side mystery involving Alice’s late parents. Despite the often humorous tone, though, one villain, whose identity is revealed early, is quite menacing. The real puzzle for readers is who this baddie’s collaborator is; also mysterious is the true importance of the stolen items. The mystery’s solution employs an intriguing mix of strategies: Jack professionally sets a trap for the bandit, but the book club’s relatively amateurish investigation actually produces some fruit. The narrative is predominantly taken up with light banter, but Jack is shown to be a keen observer, as well: at one point, for instance, he peruses an “immaculate and orderly” room, specifically noting the arrangement of objects and the lack of pictures on the wall.

A mystery with a sharp protagonist whose appeal is matched by that of the characters surrounding him.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 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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