A straightforward, ultimately satisfying story about a middle-aged woman rediscovering passion on an international adventure.

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THE HIDDEN CONNECTION

A NOVEL

Berenson’s debut novel explores the worlds of antiques dealing, traveling and the difficulties of sustaining a decadeslong relationship.

Travel agent Joan and her freelance journalist boyfriend, George, have been living together in New York City for over 20 years and in a boring rut for about half that. Joan’s love for Asian art leads her to purchase what she believes is an incredibly valuable Chinese vase, which she gives to her friend Mark for safekeeping. Shortly thereafter, she decides to buy a plane ticket to Istanbul, temporarily putting a stop to her floundering relationship with George, leaving him with only a terse note in their apartment. Before she leaves for her trip, she sells a plane ticket to a dark, handsome man named Anthony Malfeaso, who later mysteriously turns up on her world travels. Joan’s determination to change her life doesn’t preclude having an affair, but is Anthony whom he seems? More importantly, why did Joan’s latest vase go missing from her friend’s apartment? With its direct, plainspoken prose—“Wait a minute, I reflected as I ate, what am I thinking? This is all happening so fast”—and linear plotting, the book has a tendency to oversimplify character interactions. For all of their flaws, characters aren’t very dynamic, which has a flattening effect on scenes that could be underscored by tension and suspense. As Joan’s interactions with Anthony become more complex, her one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach to life tends to take away the mystery of how the situation will ultimately resolve itself. That means, for better or worse, that Berenson doesn’t leave any loose ends. On top of that, the tendency to use unimaginative declarative sentences slows the book’s narrative pacing considerably: “What was most important was that he was a very smart scholar. He often helped me identify pieces. I respected his opinion. He knew I was trying to learn from him and that I eventually wanted to be a dealer. We had met at one of the many classes I had taken. He was the teacher.” However, once these initial obstacles are scaled, the book’s tour through deception, theft and the renewal of passion makes for a decent read.

A straightforward, ultimately satisfying story about a middle-aged woman rediscovering passion on an international adventure.

Pub Date: June 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496122025

Page Count: 276

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2014

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

CROOKED RIVER

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

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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