Overstuffed and not above occasional silliness, but a rattling good read, almost as entertaining as Stephen King in...


An artist is hired to design the cover of a horror novel—and finds himself inadvertently trafficking with the supernatural.

Twentysomething David Lennon’s return to his hometown of Lompoc, California—a trip undertaken in hopes of forgetting the girlfriend who has just dumped him—leads him to a familiar beach, where he discovers a dead woman’s body. Evidence of a ritual killing, and David’s inability to disclose the whereabouts of the aforementioned girlfriend, Sienna Madden, result in his arrest and brief imprisonment on suspicion of murder. Pike (The Cold One, 1995, etc.) keeps the story moving, relying on lengthy exchanges of dialogue juxtaposed with deftly shaped scenes presented in increasingly suspenseful sequences. As David reacquaints himself with old friends and lovers, his experiences begin echoing details of that horror novel’s plot, involving a beautiful vampire named Cleo, and her lovers, both alive and undead. David can probably be forgiven for not making the connection sooner, since he’s baffled by continuing phone messages from the absent Sienna (who, local police and FBI insist, was the body on the beach), when not tumbling into bed with cheerleader-turned-hoyden Julie Stevens, evading the aggressive charms of nymphet Mary Pomus (with whom he has a history of sorts), and puzzling over a high-school buddy’s inexplicable suicide. If that sounds complicated, wait till you reach the bizarre dénouement, in which the perception that “This town is not what it appears” is confirmed by the discovery of a medical experiment that has crossed “the line between consciousness and matter,” the appearance of a bona fide demon, the explanation of who “Sienna” really was (is?), and a lurid final scene that reveals the meaning of Pike’s clever title.

Overstuffed and not above occasional silliness, but a rattling good read, almost as entertaining as Stephen King in medium-high gear.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-85895-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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