MALICE

Steel returns (after last year's Five Days in Paris) with yet another tale of suffering and redemption (this time, perhaps, with a personal edge to it, reflecting Steel's reaction to an unauthorized 1994 biography). Grace Adams overcomes, in the patented Steel manner, a series of almost biblical-level adversities. As an adolescent Grace had been repeatedly molested by her father. If she didn't submit, he would beat her mother, then dying of bone cancer. After the funeral, in a particularly violent encounter, Grace, now 17, kills him in self-defense. With almost no one to believe her story, since Dad was beloved by everybody in their small Illinois town, Grace goes to prison for two years. When she's released, she is harassed by a sleazy probation officer and drugged by a smarmy photographer, who produces some compromising photographs of the encounter. She eventually escapes to New York and gets a job at a law firm. She also volunteers at a battered-women's center, where she is attacked and brutally beaten by the husband of a woman she had tried to help. Recuperating at Bellevue, the ever-resilient Grace finds Charles, her wealthy boss, at her bedside. (``It was so unfair,'' he thinks. ``She was so young, and so alive, and so pretty.'') Inevitably, they marry, have children, and lead a perfect Steel- like existence. But when Charles runs for the US Senate, reporters uncover Grace's past. The media savage them, and Grace has a miscarriage. Steel, who was herself recently manhandled in a biography that dwelt on Steel's harsh childhood and on her marriages to two convicted felons, gets her own back against the ``maliciousness'' of the press (``They went for the gut every time with a stiletto''). There is an improbable, and typically upbeat, dÇnouement. Once again, Steel's incantational style, a melodic and slightly hypnotic current, carries the reader swiftly through a string of god-awful clichÇs, outrageous events, and unlikely outcomes. For the devotee only.

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-30604-0

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1996

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A trifle facile, but this decades-spanning drama is readable and engrossing throughout.

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A LONG PETAL OF THE SEA

Two refugees from the Spanish Civil War cross the Atlantic Ocean to Chile and a half-century of political and personal upheavals.

We meet Victor Dalmau and Roser Bruguera in 1938 as it is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican cause they support is doomed. When they reunite in France as penniless refugees, Roser has survived a harrowing flight across the Pyrenees while heavily pregnant and given birth to the son of Victor’s brother Guillem, killed at the Battle of the Ebro. Victor, evacuated with the wounded he was tending in a makeshift hospital, learns of a ship outfitted by poet Pablo Neruda to take exiles to a new life in Chile, but he and Roser must marry in order to gain a berth. Allende (In the Midst of Winter, 2017, etc.) expertly sets up this forced intimacy between two very different people: Resolute, realistic Roser never looks back and doggedly pursues a musical career in Chile while Victor, despite being fast-tracked into medical school by socialist politician Salvador Allende (a relative of the author's), remains melancholy and nostalgic for his homeland. Their platonic affection deepens into physical love and lasting commitment in an episodic narrative that reaches a catastrophic climax with the 1973 coup overthrowing Chile’s democratically elected government. For Victor and Roser, this is a painful reminder of their losses in Spain and the start of new suffering. The wealthy, conservative del Solar family provides a counterpoint to the idealistic Dalmaus; snobbish, right-wing patriarch Isidro and his hysterically religious wife, Laura, verge on caricature, but Allende paints more nuanced portraits of eldest son Felipe, who smooths the refugees’ early days in Chile, and daughter Ofelia, whose brief affair with Victor has lasting consequences. Allende tends to describe emotions and events rather than delve into them, and she paints the historical backdrop in very broad strokes, but she is an engaging storyteller. A touching close in 1994 brings one more surprise and unexpected hope for the future to 80-year-old Victor.

A trifle facile, but this decades-spanning drama is readable and engrossing throughout.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2015-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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