Despite a few hiccups, an attention-grabbing mystery with a quirky cast of characters in a steamy Southern setting.

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DAYCLEAN

Money and power lie at the root of this murder mystery as a tangled web of characters seeks to protect a young Gullah child.

Jonah Washington is a victim of neglect and abuse in the broken foster-care system of Beaufort, S.C. After he narrowly escapes a deadly beating from his foster mother, Jonah is taken in by social worker Coral Peters and her daughter Hannah. Determined to right the wrongs done to Jonah, Coral enlists the assistance of her friend, child psychologist Jadah Jimysee, and unknowingly kicks off a surprising chain of events. Suddenly, everyone is interested in Jonah’s whereabouts and well being, from the homeless man on the corner to the wealthiest family in Beaufort. A protective circle forms around Jonah and  includes the handsome and unpredictable Jack Claybourn, a man who knew Jonah’s parents and is determined to solve the mystery of their deaths and protect their son at all costs. Murders stack up as various characters, battling their own demons and defeats, are caught up in family politics, societal pressures, and a string of unsolved deaths and violent attacks. Jonah and Jadah are tied to the Gullah community and come alive through Dinsmoor’s dialogue and use of the Gullah language. Other characters, such as Hank, a Shakespeare-spouting homeless man, are uniquely interesting and introduce a lighthearted aspect to a novel that spends much of its time focused on death, violence and abuse. However, Dinsmoor is overly ambitious; the abundance of characters can be unwieldy. Many of the intriguing secondary characters remain underdeveloped, as Dinsmoor glosses their motivations and potential. Alternately, Coral and Jack receive ample time, as the narrative of their potential relationship runs parallel to the story of Jonah and the murders. Yet Jack appears to be a masochistic drunk who can be unbalanced, violent and verbally abusive. The anger and seething resentment that frequently underlie his interactions with Coral give one pause, as if their romance is being shoehorned into a story that clearly isn’t meant to be a fairy tale.

Despite a few hiccups, an attention-grabbing mystery with a quirky cast of characters in a steamy Southern setting.

Pub Date: July 11, 2012

ISBN: 9781477505199

Page Count: 448

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Addressing race, risk, retreat, and the ripple effects of a national emergency, Alam's novel is just in time for this moment.

LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND

An interrupted family vacation, unexpected visitors, a mysterious blackout—something is happening, and the world may never be the same.

On a reassuringly sunny summer day, Amanda, an account director in advertising; Clay, a college professor; and their children, Archie, 15, and Rose, 13, make their way from Brooklyn to a luxury home (swimming pool! hot tub! marble countertops!) in a remote area of Long Island they’ve rented for a family vacation. Shortly after they arrive, however, the family’s holiday is interrupted by a knock on the door: The house’s owners, a prosperous older Black couple—George Washington and his wife, Ruth—have shown up unannounced because New York City has been plunged into a blackout and their Park Avenue high-rise apartment didn’t feel safe. Soon it becomes clear that the blackout is a symptom (or is it a cause?) of something larger—and nothing is safe. Has there been a nuclear or climate disaster, a war, a terrorist act, a bomb? Alam’s story unfolds like a dystopian fever dream cloaked in the trappings of a dream vacation: Why do hundreds of deer show up in the house’s well-maintained backyard or a flock of bright-pink flamingos frolic in the family pool and then fly away? What is the noise, loud enough to crack glass, that comes, without warning, once and then, later, repeatedly? Is it safer to go back to the city, to civilization, or to remain away, in a world apart? As they search for answers and adjust to what increasingly appears to be a confusing new normal, the two families—one Black, one White; one older, one younger; one rich, one middle-class—are compelled to find community amid calamity, to come together to support each other and survive. As he did in his previous novels, Rich and Pretty (2016) and That Kind of Mother (2018), Alam shows an impressive facility for getting into his characters’ heads and an enviable empathy for their moral shortcomings, emotional limitations, and failures of imagination. The result is a riveting novel that thrums with suspense yet ultimately offers no easy answers—disappointing those who crave them even as it fittingly reflects our time.

Addressing race, risk, retreat, and the ripple effects of a national emergency, Alam's novel is just in time for this moment.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266763-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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