From its chilling opening to its haunting conclusion, this astonishing novel will resonate with many readers.

VALENTINE

The brutal rape of a Mexican American teenager on Valentine’s Day and its traumatic aftereffects on several Anglo women in 1970s small-town West Texas drive Wetmore’s searing, propulsive debut.

It’s Feb. 15, 1976, and Odessa, Texas, sitting on the oil-rich Permian Basin, is on the brink of another boom that will attract both prosperity and violence, especially against women. A cafe owner warns her waitresses: “Keep your eyes peeled for the next serial killer.” In a gritty oil town where casual misogyny and racism rule supreme, women’s lives are cheap. But 14-year-old Gloria Ramírez, raped and badly beaten by young roughneck Dale Strickland, who had picked her up at the Sonic drive-in, refuses to become another nameless victim. While her attacker lies passed out in his truck, Glory, as she renames herself, flees barefoot across the barren oil patch to Mary Rose Whitehead’s farmhouse. Her knock on the door changes both their lives. Shocked at the brutality of the crime and frightened by her confrontation with Strickland, who'd followed Glory to her house, the pregnant Mary Rose, who will testify at the upcoming trial, moves into town with her 9-year-old daughter, Aimee Jo. With her husband staying at the ranch, she is further unnerved by threatening phone calls. Her neighbor on Larkspur Lane, retired teacher Corrine Shepard, mourns her late husband by drinking too much and fending off the overtures of lonely 10-year-old Debra Ann Pierce, who longs for the return of her runaway mother, Ginny. Glory holes up in a motel with her uncle; an encounter at the pool sets her on the path to healing. Through these alternating narratives, Wetmore tells a powerful story of female anger, a repressed rage against systematic sexism and racism ready to explode in a “surface blowout.” Glory hopes her rapist “dies young.” Mary Rose’s seething indignation lands her in a holding cell. All this white-hot fury is brilliantly captured in a climactic dust storm that the author must have written in a fever pitch.  

From its chilling opening to its haunting conclusion, this astonishing novel will resonate with many readers.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291326-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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