A swift pace will keep readers hooked as the timely, intriguing plot unravels.

THE DELHI DECEPTION

In Sabharwal’s debut romantic thriller, a 30-something South African journalist travels to Delhi, falls for a mysterious charmer and inadvertently becomes a pawn in a secret mission to uncover a sinister underworld of human trafficking and international crime.

Seeking to surprise her estranged, war-reporter husband, Carla arrives at Andrew’s hotel room in Peshawar only to find him in a compromised position with a female co-worker. Reeling, she takes refuge in the Delhi home of her best friend, Elouise, an expatriate who’s settled in India with her wealthy husband, Harry, and their two children. As a distraction from her heartache, Carla, known for her exotic beauty, easily immerses herself in Elouise’s daily life of leisure, elite parties and full-time servants. While out on a tourist jaunt, Carla’s fate, as well as the novel, takes a dark turn when she’s kidnapped, drugged and nearly sold into sexual slavery. Just in time, George, an acquaintance with a shadowy reputation and no shortage of sex appeal, comes to the rescue. He reveals his true mission to her as part of an operation to catch those at the helm of this seedy venture. For her part, Carla agrees to spy on Harry, whom George believes to be involved somehow. Soon after Carla gives in to her desire for George, her husband appears and begs for forgiveness. She’s left in utter confusion, which is only magnified when Andrew and his aforementioned co-worker put George’s motives and true identity into question. The narrator’s breezy tone and the characters’ indulgence in frivolity contrast appealingly, if oddly, with the novel’s darker depictions, as of the place where young women are subdued with forced drug use and then preened like living dolls and sold to the highest bidder. The detailed accounts of criminal activity, apparently researched by the author, seem to belong to a story not wholly unearthed here, though admittedly, it would be difficult to fully serve these nonfictional elements without overpowering the interpersonal dynamics, which ultimately drive the narrative.

A swift pace will keep readers hooked as the timely, intriguing plot unravels.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2013

ISBN: 978-1479105595

Page Count: 370

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2013

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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