While a little thin, plotwise, Sweeney's second novel lives up to its title: warm, witty, and interesting.

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GOOD COMPANY

A tale of two marriages and a long-buried secret.

Thirteen years ago, when their daughter, Ruby, was 5 and they were having the happiest summer of their lives, Flora's husband, Julian, lost his wedding ring in a pond. The pond was on a property in upstate New York where Julian's theater group—Good Company—was putting on their annual outdoor play. There was a photo taken of the family sitting on the steps with their best friends, Margot and David, all leaning together, arms entwined around Ruby. Now Ruby is graduating from high school, and Flora is looking for the photograph to frame as a gift. In the process, she finds something else: the wedding ring that was supposed to be in the pond. While that unfortunate situation is unfolding in the present, flashbacks take us to the history of the friendships. Along the way, the characters' working worlds are depicted in absorbing detail: Margot is a megastar on a hospital TV series, Flora is a former Broadway singer and dancer, now a voice-over artist, David is—or was, actually—a cardiac surgeon. One of the best scenes in the book is the night David and Margot meet, over the body of a heart attack victim during Shakespeare in the Park. Always the New York maven, Sweeney nails the Central Park setting—"teenagers shrieking, the occasional smash of a bottle of beer morphing into a million glittering emeralds on the pavement"—and amusingly notes the many different versions of the story that survive over years of retelling. No one can agree how David ended up onstage or how they got to the Chinese restaurant afterward, but Margot "knew her version was—if not the most accurate—the best." All that said, this novel is far quieter than Sweeney's hit debut, The Nest (2016), and the characters are less well developed. We should know Flora best, but Margot is more clearly drawn (which would be no surprise to Flora, always second fiddle).

While a little thin, plotwise, Sweeney's second novel lives up to its title: warm, witty, and interesting.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287600-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Be patient—once the Le Creuset pot finally starts boiling, this book earns its place on the beach blanket.

SUMMER ON THE BLUFFS

A self-made Black millionaire invites her three goddaughters for a last Martha's Vineyard summer—at the end of which one will get the mansion.

In the first volume of a planned trilogy, Terry McMillan meets Elin Hilderbrand: There are strong Black women in a lovingly detailed coastal Massachusetts location amid clothes, food, and long-kept secrets. Hostin's grande dame, New Orleans–born Amelia "Ama" Vaux, once known as the "Witch of Wall Street," has buried the other half of her long, seemingly perfect marriage. Power lawyer Omar Tanner, "a quiet man who looked good in suits"—almost every man in this book looks good in or out of suits and resembles Denzel Washington, Billy Dee Williams, Dev Patel, or Paul Newman's little brother—has collaborated with his wife on her fairy godmother project. Instead of having their own children, they chose young Perry, Olivia, and Billie, filling their plebeian lives with monied ease and Vineyard summers in the elite Black enclave of Oak Bluffs. Now Ama is ready to pass on Chateau Laveau to one of them while bestowing equal, but unnamed, gifts on the others. She arranges several months off for all three women, now a high-powered lawyer, financier, and marine biologist (she's a witch, all right), and flies them up for a summer that promises to end with not just the gifts, but with revelations. It takes a little too long to get there, though some may enjoy the leisurely setup and relentless name-checking—a concordance of the Black visual artists, musicians, authors, actors, designers, and celebrities mentioned here, along with the New York and Martha's Vineyard restaurants and bars, could be a valuable book in itself. Hostin's most serious weakness is substituting catalog copy for characterization—one character "look[s] fierce in a charcoal-gray Rachel Comey jumpsuit"; another "add[s] a pair of playful Sophia Webster sneakers"; Ama chooses a "chinoiserie pattern...as recherché and mysterious as her eldest goddaughter."

Be patient—once the Le Creuset pot finally starts boiling, this book earns its place on the beach blanket.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299417-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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