On the heels of Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's Mitigating Circumstances (1992) comes this second thriller about a female vigilante. But where Rosenberg's potboiler had the courage of its bloody convictions, Holzer's talky tale straddles a moral fence. Holzer (Double Crossing, 1983) starts strongly, with a nerve- jangling third-person description of the motivating crime—the rape/murder of a woman by a band of Bronx predators—as it's heard over the phone by the victim's mother, Karen Newman, 46, a Gotham p.r. exec. The rest of the story, except an epilogue, is told by Karen and quickly slides into melodrama as her daughter's grieving husband kills himself and his little girl, motivating Karen to respond favorably to overtures by the man who pressed a card reading ``Victims Anonymous'' (VA) into her hands at her daughter's graveside. He, known as ``Kagan,'' introduces Karen to a nationwide network of crime victims and recruits her to do p.r. for the network and its secret core, which pursues vengeance against criminals and permissive judges. For her initiation, Karen must confront the punk who killed her daughter; she shoots him dead, but only—typical of Holzer's hedging—after he grabs a knife and tries to stab James Coyne, creator of VA. The ensuing narrative hosts much chat about the morality and strategy of vigilantism, punched up by romance—platonic between Karen and Coyne, erotic between Karen and an FBI agent whom she's assigned to woo in order to track the Bureau's investigation of VA. But when Karen learns the extent of Kagan's fanaticism, she turns tail and starts life anew—though not before some violent deaths and a few cheers for the ``little people'' willing to strike back against criminals—albeit legally. Moderately involving, with an intriguing heroine; but far- fetched, slow-paced, preachy, and confused about its moral stance: for all its manipulations, the Rosenberg remains a more exciting- -and honest—read.

Pub Date: April 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-85186-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1993

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


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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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