In his third time out (The Gravity of Shadows, 1998, etc.), Ramus is still getting it mostly wrong. His plotting is...

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ON ICE

An also-ran about an innocent horse-barn builder wrongly jailed.

Ben Hemmings never saw it coming, the frame that stuck him with three years hard after going down. Difficult to blame him. John Jay Forchet, wheeler-dealer, gambler, Ben’s boyhood chum, wanted a barn built for his racehorses, so he hired Ben. What’s wrong with that? Building horse-barns, after all, was Ben’s business. The money he took from Forchet to start the project was drug tainted? How was Ben to know? Is it really customary for businessmen to require customers to detail their sources of income? Ben should have done exactly that, FBI Special Agent Don Partone, insists, and the next thing Ben knows he’s a convicted money-launderer. But of course there’s more to this than meets the eye. Partone’s plan is to use Ben to get next to several very bad people, a few of whom—no surprise here—turn out to be his prison-mates. Fat Reggie Shore, for instance, the spiderlike rackets boss who’s made a web out of the Federal Correction Institution where Ben is serving time, is one of Partone’s prime targets. Help him against Shore, Partone tells Ben, and go free. Refuse, and remain parted from beloved wife and kids for another ten years. To Ben, the choice is no choice. But soon enough he finds that helping Partone will pit him against some of the most powerful people in Atlanta’s horsey-set, and that in their velvet-glove fashion they can crush a man as easily as fat Reggie can. Or as Partone can, for that matter.

In his third time out (The Gravity of Shadows, 1998, etc.), Ramus is still getting it mostly wrong. His plotting is predictable, his writing pedestrian, his people the stuff of pulp fiction.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-671-04184-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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THE BOY FROM THE WOODS

Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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