CHAOS THEORY

Doubling the stakes of John Grisham’s The Client, Krist plunges a pair of young heroes into peril that starts with a bang and ends with a bang-bang-bang. Two bright, college-bound Washington, D.C., teenage friends, Jason Rourke (white) and Dennis Monroe (black), leave a dull birthday party to score some marijuana. They end up in a grimy Northeast neighborhood alley where their drug deal turns sour and the supposed dealer is injured. The next day they find out he’s an undercover cop and he’s dead. Before they know it, the boys have become targets of a vast political conspiracy. After they—re set up by a drug find in their high school lockers, each vamooses in a different direction. Krist (Bad Chemistry, 1997, etc.) works the parallel plot lines for nonstop action. Jason is involved in a grisly murder scene in the Rock Creek Park horse stables. Dennis is kidnapped and held —handcuffed and hungry— in a damp basement. But the boys have enlisted a respected white journalism teacher, Renee Daniels, who in turn seeks help from an ex-lover, black FBI agent Frank Laroux. Renee steals files and uncovers the conspiracy the boys have stumbled on. Soon —big men in trouble— are disappearing, replaced by the dead bodies of —little men on the margins.— Krist cuts back and forth between the dramatic, racially inflected perils of the boys and the emotional reactions of their distressed parents. Jason hides out with Renee’s mother on the Eastern Shore, setting the scene for a heart stopping chase scene in a moonlit swamp. Dennis’s rescue involves a bumpy dune-buggy race across a beach. And even though his nonstop activity would seem to forbid a break for anything deeper, Krist manages some observations on strained parent/child relationships, difficult friendships, political subterfuge, guilt, loyalty, and sins of the past. Most readers will remember this wild ride, though, as a page-turner with new dangers and set-pieces every two minutes.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-50080-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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