Even for true-crime podcasters, the truth is tough to find in this brisk, entertaining thriller.

CONFIDENCE

A missing woman and a rediscovered religious artifact drive a fast-paced chase by two podcasters and a possible con man.

When Anna McDonald and Fin Cohen leave Glasgow for a family weekend at a rental house, she expects minor disasters. She and Fin are work partners in a popular true-crime podcast, but their domestic situation is intertwined as well—her ex and his ex are now a couple, and all of them are co-parenting Anna’s two young daughters. They all get along, but a new addition to the mix is Sofia, Fin’s young, pretty, poison-tongued girlfriend. So Anna is glad to be distracted by news of the disappearance of a young woman named Lisa Lee—a story that’s a prime candidate for their podcast. Lisa is part of an online community centered on urban exploring, UrbEx for short—people who break into abandoned properties and livestream what’s inside. Lisa vanished from her home near Glasgow shortly after she aired a visit to a creepy French chateau full of religious artifacts. And now one of those artifacts, a sealed silver box, is making news. It’s about to be sold at a Paris auction house, and there are rising rumors that it’s a long-missing object called the Voyniche Casket, said to contain a mysterious proof of the resurrection of Christ. The seller is anonymous; the question for Anna and Fin is what its sale has to do with Lisa’s disappearance. Then Fin gets a text from someone named Bram van Wyk wanting to know if they can help him contact Lisa. As the pair piece together Lisa’s background and the history of the Voyniche Casket, they also research Bram and find that he’s a well-known South African antiques dealer with his own sketchy past. When Anna and Fin flee their family holiday for work-related reasons back in Glasgow, Bram, rather alarmingly, shows up at Anna’s house, offering to help find Lisa. He has his surly 12-year-old son, Marcos, in tow. Bram charms them into coming to Paris for the auction with him (he has a private plane), kicking off a mad dash around Europe. It’s clear he’s a con man, but how much so? Are Anna and Fin unwilling players in an elaborate ruse, or are their lives in danger? Mina keeps the plot charging at a breathless pace, and Anna is an engagingly tart narrator.

Even for true-crime podcasters, the truth is tough to find in this brisk, entertaining thriller.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-24272-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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