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CROSS BODY LEAD

Both sides of the race issue get a fair hearing in this well-executed tale.

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A psychological novel focuses on issues of race, personal responsibility, and privilege at a California liberal arts college.

College student Evelyn Davis is dealing with a stalker. Trouble is, no seems to know what to do about him. Eddie Pike, an Afghanistan War veteran, is an older White student. He maintains he means Evelyn no harm, but it’s obvious his personal problems exceed the services that the college’s counseling clinic offers. A sophisticated African American woman, Evelyn knows how to navigate both the Black and White worlds, “having been brought up in a well-to-do white neighborhood.” Professor Billie Ochoa teaches a class Eddie and Evelyn share. Billie is enamored of her Cuban heritage and Fidel Castro’s island paradise. As a conscientious educator, she tutors Eddie alone so he can continue with the class while Evelyn stays safe. But the unwanted intrusions mount, from Eddie’s following Evelyn to his sneaking into her apartment. Campus police tiptoe around the problem because they say they can’t prove Eddie committed a crime. Evelyn is leery of the authorities, and soon the issues of race and administrative action boil over. Billie is exasperated, venting to a college official: “A young African-American woman who’s being stalked? Doesn’t that distress you? Just a bit? That it’s the white men you’re always protecting?” The administration reaches out to Eddie, but when a restraining order is issued, word gets out that he is a stalker, and he becomes the object of student protests. In this engaging tale, Axelroth is fair to all the characters and allows Evelyn and others to see both sides of the complicated race issue. At times, Evelyn feels discomfort at being “a stand-in for whatever Black people thought—about police shooting unarmed Black men, and looting in Black neighborhoods, and isn’t affirmative action just reverse discrimination?” Personal responsibility becomes an issue when Billie lies and tells the authorities Eddie threatened Evelyn and when an administration member attempts to use the tumultuous campus situation to benefit her own agenda. This is set against secondary themes of the Cuban revolution, communism, and how sometimes the ends justify the means, which all get a rousing pro and con analysis in an academic hothouse of impassioned young thinkers.

Both sides of the race issue get a fair hearing in this well-executed tale.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-79481-618-3

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Lulu.com

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2022

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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IDENTITY

Roberts revisits a favorite theme: The power of community can defeat a great evil.

After escaping from a serial killer, a woman tries to reclaim her life.

After a childhood as an Army brat, Morgan Albright is determined to put down roots. She bought a small house in the perfect neighborhood outside of Baltimore, living with a friend and working two jobs to make ends meet. Morgan’s life is happy and fulfilling, and she is making progress on her financial and career goals. Her perfect world is shattered when someone breaks into her home and murders her roommate. At first, the police assume it was a random act of violence, but after discovering the killer stole Morgan’s identity and her entire savings, they realize the crime fits the profile of a serial killer named Gavin Rozwell. The police inform Morgan that her roommate was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; she was the real intended target. Morgan’s grief, coupled with the financial devastation from the identity theft, leaves her no choice but to return home to Vermont to live with her mother and grandmother. Morgan reconnects with her family and rebuilds her life, including landing the perfect job and falling in love. The police and FBI pursue Gavin, who continues to stalk and kill women, each time leaving a reminder at the crime scene that shows he’s fixated on Morgan as the one who got away. Roberts shows Gavin’s slow descent into obsession and madness as the inverse of Morgan’s healing journey back to herself and her community. The novel highlights Morgan’s preparations for the inevitable final countdown with Gavin, but the lack of immediacy and urgency of the threat makes for a subdued, restrained thriller.

Roberts revisits a favorite theme: The power of community can defeat a great evil.

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9781250284112

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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