From wanton to wicked, the love-hate relationship between Dickey's characters burns with rapid-fire dialogue and plenty of...

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BEFORE WE WERE WICKED

In the tragic prequel to Bad Men and Wicked Women (2018), Dickey resets the clock to 1996, when bill collector Ken Swift goes on his first date with destiny.

Her name is Adanech Abeylegesse Zenebework, but she calls herself Jimi Lee after Jimi Hendrix and Spike Lee. In this origin story, 18-year-old Jimi is staying with her privileged Ethiopian parents in Southern California as part of her gap year before she attends Harvard. Ken settles debts for a shady employer named San Bernardino, but he swears it’s only until he can finish his education at UCLA. Jimi says she’s 21 when she meets Ken at a club on the Sunset Strip, and although she looks down on African-American men—a topic they discuss in great detail—their one-night stand becomes an obsession that consumes them both. Together, they explore the diverse beauty of the greater Los Angeles area, from Leimert Park, the “Black Beverly Hills,” to the outer suburb of Diamond Bar. They enjoy the '90s as they watch movies on a VCR, dance the Cabbage Patch, and argue over the O.J. Simpson trial. Passionate and complex, Jimi and Ken spar over social issues and end up in bed as often as Black History Month and Valentine’s Day share the month of February—which is to say, all the time. Ultimately, their relationship takes a bad turn for more personal reasons—an unplanned pregnancy that derails Jimi’s plans to go to college and disappoints her controlling parents. Jimi is too young for motherhood and can’t quite handle the responsibility. Ken, meanwhile, proves that her assumptions about African-Americans were untrue: He marries Jimi, dotes on their baby, and works hard to support them both. But when a collection job turns dangerous, threatening their daughter’s safety, even love might not be enough to keep them together. Readers jumping into the series will have the pleasure of reading the stories in chronological order. Fans will enjoy the backstory, which ends right where the first book begins.

From wanton to wicked, the love-hate relationship between Dickey's characters burns with rapid-fire dialogue and plenty of steam.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4403-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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