An excellent, though disturbing, look at a woman’s desperate search for closure.

THE HANGING TREE

From the Doctors of Darkness series , Vol. 2

The second novel in the Doctors of Darkness series follows a psychologist and murderer 23 years after incidents that changed their lives forever.

On Friday, May 13, 1994, 13-year-old orphan Evie Allcott and her best (and only) friend Cassie, clutching their cherry Slurpees, accepted a ride from a stranger. Now, in 2017, Evie, a widowed 36-year-old psychologist for sex offenders, is still deeply affected by that night—even though she can’t fully recall it. She believes that Cassie was strangled by a man at “the hanging tree,” a disturbing landmark in their city of Oakland, California. In a desperate search for answers, Evie hitchhikes every other Friday, hoping for a dangerous situation to jog her memory. One night, someone does try to kill her, although it doesn’t make her remember the old crime; however, 41-year-old Butch Calder, who knew Evie in their youth, saves her. Back in 1994, Butch strangled his childhood crush after she rejected him, and he was only recently released from prison. The story alternates between the two main characters’ perspectives, jumping between 1994 and events in 2017, such as the addition of troubled Sebastian Delacourt to Evie’s therapy sessions. When another young girl is murdered at the hanging tree, detectives work to find the culprit, and Evie withholds some information from them. In the end, she grapples with a familiar question: “how do you destroy a devil without becoming one?” The story, by real-life psychologist Kane (Daddy Darkest, 2017, etc.), provides a captivating look into its characters’ complicated minds, and a psychological study of the effects of childhood distress: It’s revealed that Gwen’s wealthy father neglected her, which led to her kleptomaniac behavior, and Evie watched her mother die of a heroin overdose at the hands of a pimp, which may have led her to want to help people as an adult. The fast-paced story flows with precision, and Kane’s decision to reveal the crimes early on, before building up to the 1994 murder, generates genuine suspense. However, readers should be warned that this book deals with very sensitive subjects, including pedophilia and rape.

An excellent, though disturbing, look at a woman’s desperate search for closure.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-05359-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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