A perceptive thriller set in an offbeat milieu.

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NUCLEAR OPTION

In the third entry in Van Soest’s series, the son of an atomic-testing veteran discovers that the side effects of radiation poisoning can last for generations.

In 1984, anti-nuclear protester Sylvia Jensen meets Norton Cramer, an ex-serviceman who was exposed to the Operation Redwing nuclear tests that were carried out in the Pacific in the 1950s. She soon realizes that she’s found a kindred spirit, both ideologically and romantically. They’re arrested while demonstrating against a plutonium storage company and weapons manufacturer, and in an ensuing court hearing, Norton makes a very public and very dangerous announcement to the world about nuclear testing. By becoming a whistleblower, he knows he’s risking the wrath of the government, but his past exposure to high levels of radiation has left him with little to lose. In 2019, at the memorial service of a fellow activist, Sylvia meets Corey Cramer, Norton’s son, whom she’d last seen when he was a toddler. Their chance meeting leaves Sylvia with a deep sense of responsibility for Corey’s well-being. When his own 4-year-old son dies of cancer, he angrily sets out on a mission to find out the truth about what happened in the Pacific all those years ago—and he becomes involved with a militant anti-nuclear protest group that plans a terrible act of violence. In this latest series installment featuring Sylvia Jensen, Van Soest presents a well-researched, compassionate, and exciting blend of social commentary and political thriller. Along the way, she also manages to offer some sharp insights into the struggles of the anti-nuclear movement and its opponents. The interwoven plotlines, which bounce back and forth between the past and present, give readers a compelling view of three distinct eras of nuclear struggle—from the initial nuclear testing, through its horrible effects, to the stories of those who must deal with the consequences many years on. In the end, Sylvia is forced to act quickly in order to honor Corey’s father as his son goes down a dark path.

A perceptive thriller set in an offbeat milieu.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62720-291-6

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Apprentice House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

A TIME FOR MERCY

A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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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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