Familiar premise, busy plotting, stock characters. As usual, Hoagy’s narration is the bright spot in a tangle of intrigue...

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THE MAN WHO COULDN'T MISS

Summer 1993 finds sometime novelist Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag back at work on a new book, happily resident on his ex-wife Merilee Nash’s Connecticut farm, but unable to kick his fatal attraction toward inconvenient corpses in awkward places.

While Hoagy types furiously, Merilee’s taking time out from her Hollywood career to organize a fundraiser on behalf of the storied Sherbourne Playhouse. The weather forecast for the one-night-only benefit staging of Private Lives is dire, but that doesn’t deter Merilee or her co-stars—hunky Greg Farber, his wife, Dini Hawes, and womanizing Marty Miller—from learning their lines and mastering Noel Coward’s comic rhythms. Another dark cloud appears on the horizon when R.J. Romero, a Yale drama classmate who shares a nasty secret with Merilee, pops up like a jack-in-the-box to blackmail her. But the show must go on despite predictions of torrential rain, high winds, and umbrellas galore for both the audience and the stars, though the weather is far from the worst complication in store. The first act goes off without a hitch, but during the intermission, to the surprise of everyone but fans of the series (The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, 2017, etc.), the cast loses one of its leading lights to a killer, and as if on cue, skeletons begin tumbling from closets, revealing the past histories of everyone involved to be even more checkered than the sexual adventures of Coward’s principals. Accompanied by Lulu, his faithful basset hound, Hoagy sidles into sleuthing alongside Lt. Carmine Tedone of the Connecticut State Police. Although he acts on several hunches he coyly declines to share with the reader and drags the cast through an interminable restaging of the crime, he gets to share detecting honors with Lulu.

Familiar premise, busy plotting, stock characters. As usual, Hoagy’s narration is the bright spot in a tangle of intrigue wilder than Noel Coward ever could have imagined.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-241285-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth...

THE THIRD TO DIE

In Brennan’s (Nothing To Hide, 2019, etc.) new series launch, a hard-edged female LAPD undercover cop and an ambitious FBI special agent race to catch a serial killer before he strikes again.

On paid administrative leave since an incident with a suspect went wrong, a restless Detective Kara Quinn is on an early morning run in her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, when she discovers the flayed corpse of a young nurse. In D.C., FBI Special Agent in Charge Mathias Costa is staffing the new Mobile Response Team, designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, when his boss assigns Matt and analyst Ryder Kim to Liberty Lake. The notorious Triple Killer, who murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years, has returned. With only six days to identify and catch the culprit, and only three days until he kills again, the team is “on a very tight clock.” What should be on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense turns into a slog marred by pedestrian prose (“she heard nothing except birds chirping…”), a convoluted plot slowed down by a focus on dull bureaucratic infighting, and flat character development. The sole exception is the vividly drawn Kara. Smart, angry, defensive, complicated, she fascinates both the reader and Matt ("Kara Quinn was different—and he couldn’t put his finger on why”).

Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth Salander.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7783-0944-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

WHITE HOT

Lukewarm thriller from bestselling Brown (Hello, Darkness, 2003, etc.).

Sayre Hoyle doesn’t believe her brother Danny committed suicide, and she’s returned home to prove it—but it seems nothing ever changes in Destiny, Louisiana. The small town looks the same as ever, and the same good old boys are sitting in the same vinyl booths at the same diner, conniving and backstabbing and telling lies. Too bad one of them just happens to be Sayre’s daddy, Huff Hoyle. A self-made rich man in a poor parish, he owns a smoke-belching iron foundry, a hellish place that at least provides employment for the beaten-down men of Destiny. If industrial accidents do happen in one of ’em now and then, well, that’s God’s will. Tough-talking Huff don’t want the government OSHA boys anywhere near his foundry, and that goes double for union organizers and other un-American busybodies. Sayre’s heard it all before—and still doesn’t trust either him or her creepy older brother, Chris, who took so much pleasure in tormenting her when they were young. And there’s Huff’s new right-hand man, lawyer Beck Merchant, to contend with. What exactly does Beck stand to gain by his involvement with Huff and cronies? If only he weren’t so good-looking and sexy. . . . Back to the story: Did Slap Watkins, jug-eared, degenerate scion of inbred bayou-dwellers, kill gentleman Danny in a fit of rage when Danny refused to hire Slap’s fellow parolees? Nah. Slap doesn’t have the brains or coordination to kill a June bug. Back to the subplot: Will the tyrannical Huff resort to violence when his ironworkers defy him and go out on strike? And back to the reason Sayre hates Huff: He forced her to have an abortion, performed by an incompetent doctor who tied her, screaming, to the table in his back room. And now for the reason Beck hates Huff . . . .

Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4553-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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