Rich in characters and real-world events and a worthy companion piece to the author’s previous book.

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THE HOUSE ON KALALUA

The search for a killer in a decades-old homicide exposes family secrets in a Pacific Northwest town in this historical novel.

In 1994, Sal Bremer; her husband, Rob; and their children move into the Chatsle House. It’s in the couple’s hometown, where the Chatsles were a notoriously wealthy family. Sal is fascinated by the former homeowners, as son Andy went missing in action during the Vietnam War and there are questions surrounding matriarch Celeste’s death (a car somehow crushed her against a tree). So Sal is understandably curious about the diaries Celeste left behind. Meanwhile, Vietnam veteran Kevin Occley has already perused some of Celeste’s diaries, hoping for answers about his sister Kitty’s unsolved murder in ’64. An unknown person has been letting Kevin inside the attic and later, after the Bremers take up residence, giving him notes on additional diary entries. Reading about Celeste’s life reveals a host of surprises, including her link to The Society of the Red Dragon, a mysterious spy organization. But the diaries further detail secrets among the families that spent decades in the town. As Kevin receives a note warning him off his hunt, he and Sal inch closer to identifying Kitty’s killer. Celeste’s diaries play out as flashbacks, giving the enthralling story a lengthy timeline beginning in 1915 and focusing on Vietnam. There’s an abundance of characters, quite a few who appeared in McGinnis’ (Five Cats of Hamburg, 2015) preceding novel. Reading the earlier book isn’t necessary but does enrich this tale once familiar names start popping up. Along with the murder mystery, the author provides a brooding atmosphere with the old, often spooky house. For example, after seeing an unexplained light in the attic, Sal goes to check on it, with her daughter, Tali, and some friends—all during an ominous storm outside. The final act runs a bit long, as McGinnis intentionally prolongs the murderer’s unveiling. But the resolution, coupled with other plot turns, results in a satisfying ending.

Rich in characters and real-world events and a worthy companion piece to the author’s previous book.

Pub Date: June 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5328-2214-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2019

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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