A murder mystery with a likable hero.

READ REVIEW

SNEAKING OUT

From the The Chased Series series

A boarding school killing rekindles haunting memories for the so-called Kidnapped Kid as he sets out to clear his best friend’s name in this debut YA novel.

Luke Chase, a junior at St. Benedict’s (“in the heart of Connecticut”), is an “all-around good guy: clean-cut, a great student and athlete.” Oscar Weymouth, his roommate, is an authority-flouting rebel. One fateful night, the two defy campus rules and sneak out into the woods for an illicit rendezvous with two girls, Kelsey and Pippa, a British transfer student on whom Luke has a crush. The thrill of “living on the edge” takes a deadly turn when the dean’s second wife, Joanna, is murdered near their meeting spot. When Oscar is implicated in the crime, Luke must shake off his own growing suspicions about his best friend and find the real killer. Suspects range from the creepy Mr. Tadeckis, who runs the school’s Outdoor Survival Program, to the community’s legendary boogeyman, the Southborough Strangler. Luke wants to solve the case to give the school something else to talk about besides his own legendary status as the Kidnapped Kid, “the bravest boy in America,” who three years prior escaped his abductors and survived for days in the wilderness thanks to skills taught to him by his grandfather. It was never determined why Luke was targeted. Adding to his unease is that one of his kidnappers was never apprehended. Vance (a pseudonym) has created an affable hero in Luke, whose modestly carries the burden of his unwanted fame. The author deftly sets the stage for future investigative adventures and leaves enough loose threads in Luke’s backstory to further explore that enigma. While the writing could be sharper (“Things had gone beyond a fear of getting in trouble; now their safety might be in jeopardy”), a climactic chase through a maze is an effective set piece. There is little blood, only the mildest profanity, and no sexual situations. But some of the pop- culture references geared toward the intended YA readers seem either forced (Game of Thrones) or past their shelf life (Napoleon Dynamite). This might not make the grade for more hard-boiled genre fans.

A murder mystery with a likable hero.

Pub Date: March 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9984997-7-2

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Dunemere Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2018

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Garrett’s failure to produce any sympathetic characters makes her debut tough going.

THE LAST TO DIE

Burglaries turn deadly for a group of spoiled teenagers.

Harper, Alex, Sarah, Paisley, Benji, and Gin come from similarly privileged homes. Their parents make up for a lack of commitment to their high school offspring by providing unfettered access to life’s material benefits: cars, clothes, and costly vacations. When getting drunk on booze filched from their folks’ well-stocked liquor cabinets palls, they invent an exciting new game. Each time one of the teens’ families goes skiing in Vail or snorkeling in the Bahamas, a designated member of the pack breaks into the unattended house and collects an assortment of trophies to be pawned for ready cash. The rules of the looting are strict. Only one member breaks into each house, nothing is to be stolen that can’t be replaced with insurance money, and nothing stolen from other members of the group. Harper adds one more rule: no stealing from her deaf sister, Maggie. After one full round of felonious fun, the wheels start to come off the crime spree. Sarah dies from a drug overdose. The police can’t decide if it’s an accident or suicide, but Harper is sure it’s neither. She thinks Sarah is too smart to overdose on her own and too conceited to kill herself. And since no one outside her little group exists for Harper, one of her fellow thieves must have killed her. Going to the authorities is a no-go because it would reveal the group’s role in the burglaries and spoil their chances of admission to an Ivy League college. So Harper and her chums sit around and wait to see if anything else bad happens. It does. Unfortunately, even Harper’s protectiveness toward her sister carries its own whiff of smugness.

Garrett’s failure to produce any sympathetic characters makes her debut tough going.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-929345-30-4

Page Count: 206

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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