Treasure hunters face plenty of hurdles in this entertaining, suspenseful tale.

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THE TICKET

In this thriller, a Virginia lawyer’s desperate search for a missing lottery ticket worth millions puts his estranged wife and others in danger.

Attorney Channing Booker has just won the lottery, which is a massive $241 million before taxes. But he’s not ready to celebrate just yet. He knows a divorce from his wife, Susan, is imminent, and he doesn’t want to split the fortune. He’ll report the win later with his lawyer friend’s assistance, stashing his ticket in one of Susan’s rare Charles Dickens books. But Channing returns home the next day to find Susan gone, along with some furniture and every Dickens novel. Susan has good reason to leave: Channing, a gambler and habitual drug user, has been physically abusing her. That she’s completely unaware of the ticket doesn’t stop Channing’s hunt for the books. Keeping mum about the valuable bookmark, he enlists the help of loathsome pawn shop owner Billy Scaggs and contends with a nosy attorney at his firm, who assumes Channing is up to something shady. Meanwhile, a sudden car accident threatens to derail Susan’s escape plans. And as Channing’s 180-day period for turning in his ticket gradually diminishes, his despair may escalate into violence. Shackelford (Judges Say the Darndest Things, 2004) provides his story with a dizzying tempo, as he piles on various obstacles for both Channing and Susan. There are perspectives from multiple characters, but they primarily shift between the estranged couple and Lee Barnett, a retired detective who somehow secures evidence of the lottery ticket’s existence. Characters throughout are notable, as even seemingly minor players have solid backstories. But the most indelible are Billy, who’s frighteningly good at tracking down information, and Lee, a flawed potential hero whose pursuit of the ticket involves theft and breaking and entering. The author’s breezy prose is free of obscenities and graphic specifics of brutality, including during the intense final act. Although the inevitable encounter involving the main characters results in a well-earned climax, a romance between two of the players is short and somewhat contrived.

Treasure hunters face plenty of hurdles in this entertaining, suspenseful tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64437-009-4

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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