Initially fun, but shot and left for dead by a ludicrous pseudothriller angle.

SOLO

Cellist dumps hubby and tries for celebrity singledom, only to be chased by doubt, her past and a stalker.

Barr may have done all she could with the backpacker genre (Cuba, 2003, etc.) so it’s not surprising that she’s upgrading (or downgrading) to mildly suspenseful chick-lit. The main problem here is that the suspenseful elements that served her well in previous travelogue fiction are ratcheted up to such a ludicrous extent that her novel’s soil has been left rather bare and thin. Thirty-year-old Evie Silverman is a cellist of the pop sort—the kind who always appears somewhat undressed on her album photo and makes sure to cover pop tunes as well as the classical staples. And she’s quite well known for it (“I am classical lite, through and through”), so it’s to Fleet Street’s delight when she rather brusquely dumps her husband after a well-received concert. Evie wastes no time moving into a new apartment, with a rather mousy and worshipful roommate, and making the party rounds, making sure that she’s photographed about town in her favorite outfits. Just when her life is looking pretty peachy (her boyfriend is an 18-year-old pop star who follows her around puppy-doglike), though, Evie starts getting threatening stalker letters, anonymous of course. Wherein follows a lengthy jaunt to New York for a publicity tour, more letters, an agonizingly dull stretch about her best friend’s attempt to be artificially impregnated, and a rather ridiculous denouement involving a secret from Evie’s past and a laughably villainous high-school enemy. Barr quite definitively shows the limitations of her craft, as she takes a promisingly tart beginning and continually waters it down with verbiage, opaque motivations, subpar suspense and a narrative as focused on the inner life of its amazingly narcissistic heroine as she is on herself.

Initially fun, but shot and left for dead by a ludicrous pseudothriller angle.

Pub Date: May 31, 2005

ISBN: 0-452-28536-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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

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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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