A nicely written whodunit with a satisfying payoff.

THE WRONG HOSTAGE

South-of-the-border mayhem, with refreshing twists amid the genre conventions.

Lowell (Always Time to Die, 2005, etc.) has a flair for writing about the dark corners of well-traveled places, in this instance San Diego and its Mexican sister city, Tijuana. Fences, barbed wire and searchlights separate the two, but crime is a nation all its own, and when young Lane Franklin—busted for altering his grades via computer hackery and sent to a parochial boot camp in Mexico—is kidnapped, his tormentors and rescuers alike come in all shades, shapes and sizes. Leading the cavalry is his mother, Grace Silva, a federal judge who’s “all woman everywhere a man liked to feel the difference.” She’s also a tough cookie, but she can’t do it alone. With some trepidation, she enlists an Eiger Sanction–ish anti-crime outfit and its top agent, Joe Faroe, who just happens to be a former lover of hers and who went to jail some months before young Lane came into the world. The bad guys are a Mexican narcotraficante fond of crack-laced cigarettes and assorted evil; a well-connected Tijuana politico and wheeler-dealer; and one Theodore Franklin, who is a billionaire many times over, Grace’s ex-husband—and Lane’s father. Sort of. Now, of course, in the thriller game, all billionaires are villains, all former cops knights errant of virtue, all kids smart and computer-literate and all federal judges—well, some federal judges—keen on finding time on their judicial calendars for pleasures of a sort they have never known. Lowell fulfills all these obligations and then some, but the story she turns in has plenty of nice moments in which good is not wholly good and evil not wholly evil, though the really bad guys are nasty pieces of work indeed. In the end, everyone gets what he or she has coming, and justice prevails—sort of.

A nicely written whodunit with a satisfying payoff.

Pub Date: June 13, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-082981-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

THE WINTER GUEST

An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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RIVER'S END

Though Roberts (The Reef, 1998, etc.) never writes badly, her newest mystery romance is more inconsistent than most. Little Olivia MacBride, daughter of two golden Hollywood superstars, wakes up one night to see her coked-up father holding her mother’s bloody body, a scissors in his hand. After her dad is led off to prison, Liv is sent to live with her grandparents, who run a successful lodge in the Olympic rain forest on the Washington coast—a location far across the continent from the Maryland shores of Roberts’s Quinn trilogy, but one that allows her to explore another place of life-giving scenic wonder. And when Liv grows up and becomes a naturalist/guide, she gets to take us on lots of eye-dazzling tours. Into her sheltered paradise comes Noah Brady, the son of the police detective who arrested Liv’s father and has been her friend since childhood. Noah has grown up to be a bestselling true-crime writer, and, against Liv’s will, he wants to write his next book about the MacBride murder case. (Liv’s dad, about to be released from San Quentin, is dying of brain cancer.) Though Liv fights her attraction to Noah, he’s a persistent boy, and on an extended and very sexy camping trip, the two become lovers. Meanwhile, the real murderer, whose identity will probably be obvious to most readers, leaves his own trail of violence up to Washington and a final prime-evil shoot-out. Added to Roberts’s poorly drawn mystery and her interlude of swell lusty love is her usual theme of how wounded children and inner children are healed and nurtured by good nuclear families. If the conventional wisdom is true, that romance readers never tire of reruns of the same old same old, then Roberts won’t have disappointed them.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-14470-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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