A harrowing yet awkwardly written suspense yarn centered on a relentlessly abusive child prostitution ring.

Swendsen (A Real Nightmare, 2012), a retired conservation warden and special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, opens his sophomore effort with a ghastly act of cruelty: the murder of three young girls in an abandoned mansion in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Also found on the property are a helicopter landing pad and several fresh graves containing more young female corpses. Forty-something veteran Lt. Tom Provens is quickly on the scene, and he discovers that the mansion is just one of eight facilities in use by a well-oiled child prostitution ring carefully managed by the nefarious overlord Sir William Barthalomew. Sir William authorizes each shipment of new girls to these clandestine brothels in an operation so covert it has gone unnoticed by the local police. His business is a fully functioning hive of prostitution, employing a vast network of both male and female recruiters and location “landlords.” The novel also follows the desperate plights of the innocent victims taken from the streets and enslaved in sexual servitude, including Provens’ plucky 13-year-old niece, Janie. Provens gets lucky with a few good leads, prompting raids of several of the brothels. These developments accelerate the pace of Swendsen’s somewhat sluggish thriller, which features unsettling, graphic details of the sex slave trade. Several girls manage to escape their captors, while others are rescued by Provens’ brave, capable band of investigators. Most clever and elusive is Barthalomew, however, who continually slithers his way out of Provens’ grasp by absconding to Colombia, though his kingdom threatens to crumble beneath a careless combination of greed and malevolence. Of course, Swendsen’s subject matter isn’t for the faint of heart; the harvesting of underage girls for sinister purposes tends to be difficult material. Although the prose can be repetitive and peppered with grammatical errors, the novel comes to life in its second half, as Provens, the sturdy investigator, propels the story to a riveting conclusion in the Ecuadorian jungle. A raw, realistic portrait of evil, child abuse and justice.


Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1479381029

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2014

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.


Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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