DOWN BY THE RIVER

Expatriate Irish writer O'Brien (House of Splendid Isolation, 1994, etc.) offers one of the most ferocious indictments of Gaelic life and culture since The Playboy of the Western World. The case several years ago of an Irish girl who was barred by judicial decree from leaving the country to procure an abortion was bound to work its way into fiction, and O'Brien was probably the likeliest to pick it up. She adds a particularly nasty twist to the already-repugnant scenario by making 14-year-old Mary MacNamara not merely the victim of rape but of incest as well, impregnated by her father not long after Mrs. MacNamara's funeral. Ashamed and unwilling to reveal the true circumstances of her case, Mary becomes the pawn in a monstrous political game played out across the pulpits, newsrooms, and Foreign Offices of the British Isles. A kindly neighbor who takes her secretly to London is threatened with arrest and reluctantly brings the girl home, where she is kept virtually imprisoned to prevent her from terminating either her pregnancy or her life. She manages to escape into the hands of the liberals, but they have an agenda of their own, seeing in her the perfect candidate for a Supreme Court case—a case that cannot possibly be settled in time for an abortion. As the wheels of justice grind slowly, Mary becomes increasingly depressed and exhausted. The panorama of characters who wander into and around the controversy—including judges, journalists, schoolgirls, transvestites, and madwomen—give a rich background to the story, but the book's angry impact is diminished through its having been inspired by a case that was dramatic in its own right and through a presentation that is relentlessly partisan. If hard cases make bad law, it must be added that they can make pretty poor literature as well. O'Brien's propagandistic tone and two-dimensional characterizations will bring her few if any new admirers.

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-14327-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

Categories:

MURDER AT THE TAFFY SHOP

The romantic doings of the likable characters are more interesting than the mediocre mystery.

A bike shop owner and her book club pals keep solving mysteries in ways that somehow don’t endear them to the police (Murder on Cape Cod, 2018, etc.).

Mackenzie Almeida, the proprietor of Mac’s Bikes in the touristy Cape Cod town of Westham, is dating Tim Brunelle, the caring and handsome owner of an artisanal bakery, who wants to get married and start a family. That’s not something independent neat freak Mac is ready to do. She enjoys living in her tiny house with Belle, her talkative parrot, for company. When Mac and her best friend, Gin, come across the dead body of wealthy Beverly Ruchart outside Gin’s taffy shop, Mac’s romantic problems get put on the back burner, especially since Gin is a suspect. She and her date, Eli Tubin, the widower of Beverly’s daughter, had attended a party at Beverly’s home only the night before. Beverly seems to have died from a heart attack, but an autopsy finds that she was poisoned with antifreeze, some of which has been planted in Gin’s garage. Of course Mac and her cohorts at the book club can’t resist a little sleuthing. They uncover several other plausible suspects: Beverly’s ne’er-do-well grandson, Ron, his Russian girlfriend, and his long-absent father, who has a police record. Although Beverly could be generous, she had a sharp tongue that made her plenty of enemies. Her interest in genealogy and reuniting long-lost parents and children endeared her to Wesley Farnham, for whom she found a son, but not so much to Farnham’s daughter, who misses being an only child. Although Mac turns her findings over to the police, she still attracts the killer’s notice and ends up owing her life to Belle.

The romantic doings of the likable characters are more interesting than the mediocre mystery.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4967-1508-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Categories:

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

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. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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