An ambitious tale about a mysterious cruise ploddingly told.


The Belinda Triangle

A debut dystopian thriller explores a future ravaged by war and economic catastrophe.

Doyle Ramsey Beckett is laid off from his job as a history professor and anxious about his monetary prospects given the mountain of student debt he still carries. His wife, Geneva, is a medical doctor, but that doesn’t seem to mean much in a future America saddled with debt, hyperinflation, and chronic unemployment. Geneva reveals to Beckett that she’s pregnant—bittersweet news since they want a child, but this also creates a new layer of fiscal urgency. New legislation stipulates that a child can be seized by the government if the parents dip below a certain threshold of financial viability. Beckett decides to enlist to work on a controversial cruise line run by the government that promises to compensate him with reductions in his debt. But he is misled into believing the cruise he’s signed up for is a weeklong rehearsal for a job; it turns out to be the real deal—an 11-week trip. While onboard, he makes the acquaintance of a woman—Belinda Creighton—who was clearly duped into believing she was entering a rehab program, but the cruise certainly provides nothing of the sort. The entire plot moves slowly toward the revelation regarding the dark purpose of the voyage. Hoffman adroitly paints a bleak picture of a country shattered by internal discord; something akin to a civil war tears the nation apart in the year 2029. The result is a combination of martial law, Orwellian governmental control, and dire financial straits. The author doesn’t provide many specific details about the nature of the political tumult’s causes, but that only heightens the atmospheric ominousness. There are other subplots as well: a militia violently attacks Geneva’s housing complex, and a couple on the cruise grapple with terminal illness. But these are digressive distractions. Hoffman’s narrative ingenuity is impressive, and he exercises notable restraint in dispensing information to the reader. But a thriller should simply be more thrilling, and the cloud of mystery that hangs over the mission of the cruise remains more frustrating than suspenseful.

An ambitious tale about a mysterious cruise ploddingly told.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2016

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


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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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