A measured, affecting look at a struggling and burdened teenager.



A talented Philadelphia high school swimmer with a bleak family life turns up missing in Schiller’s (Even if Your Heart Would Listen, 2019) dark melodrama.

After a New Year’s Eve party to usher in 1993, Angel Ferente doesn’t make it home. Angel is a senior at Kennedy Academic High School, where she’s a star on the swim team. The team also includes her best friend, Alex Williamson, and her “sometimes boyfriend,” Jamal Joyner. Her home life, however, is troubling. Her mother, Rita, who goes by “Pic,” has spent time in rehab and, several years prior, lost custody of Angel and her little sister, Jeannine. But now the girls live with Pic and her spiteful, unemployed husband, Frank, along with the couple’s young daughters, Kathleen and Joy. Before she disappeared, Angel had been caring for the other girls in between seemingly endless arguments with Pic and Frank. Though Angel has run away in the past, as when she suddenly left to see her biological father in New Jersey, Alex and Jeannine are worried because no one has any idea where she has gone. While some in the Philly community search for the missing teen, her friends and family can only hope that someone will find Angel—and that she’s still alive. Schiller’s tale, told through the alternating narrative perspectives of Alex and Jeannine, is an absorbing character study of Angel as well as of Jeannine. Both narrators provide insight into Angel, who uses swimming less for personal achievement and more as an escape from the home that occasionally leaves her with visible bruises. But readers learn just as much about Jeannine, an exceptionally smart girl whom many disregard because she rarely speaks in public. The author balances the generally somber story with amiable characters, from tough but compassionate swim coach “CJ” Rhodes to Alex’s mom, Claire, who’s a teacher at the same school. The tight, unembellished prose makes for an easy read and even adds a hint of mystery, as readers know neither Angel’s fate nor the identity of the person sending her anonymous, suggestive letters.

A measured, affecting look at a struggling and burdened teenager.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-036-3

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Spark Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

Did you like this book?

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.


FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?