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THE UNTESTED

An engaging Mafia story spiked with some surprises.

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An ambitious prosecutor and a newbie mob attorney face off in this debut legal thriller.

After three years working as a lawyer in the Palm Beach County Public Defender’s Office in Florida, 29-year-old Jason Noble is burned out. “Being an assistant public defender is like working in dog years,” he tells his boss. And Jason knows a lot about canines, as his English bulldog, Caesar, is his constant companion at home and on business-related road trips. After Jason opens his own law practice, business is initially slow. But things heat up after mobster Antonio “Magic Man”Barrera, charged with three counts of murder, is advised by one of “the best lawyers in the country” that it’s an unwinnable case. The lawyer, Peter “the Great” Cohen, suggests hiring an inexperienced former public defender so “Ineffective Assistance of Counsel” can ultimately be proved. Enter Jason, who will spar with prosecutor Trevor Wittingham, a gubernatorial candidate running in a special election. Wittingham believes the conviction of a reputed mob boss will ensure his ascent “to the governor’s mansion,” so he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win the case. In Morse’s story, verbal and physical cruelty—a wife continually berating her husband; trafficked victims suffering before being killed; a mobster getting mutilated before being thrown to the gators—piles on to the point of diminishing returns. Mobspeak—including terms such as “fuhgeddaboudit”—lifted from B gangster films sounds clichéd. Nicknames are overused—to name a few: Vinnie “The Bag” Respi, Mario “Lug Nut” Rizzo, and attorney Tim “Butt-Kisser” Barnes.There’s nothing woke about the female characters: sex workers, crabby wives, and “doe-eyed” stunners. But courtroom scenes read authentically, and the author knows the South Florida area, citing, for example, “The Chart Room, where Truman Capote penned his final novel and Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley played their first gigs.” A courtroom reveal and an unexpected ending are more than satisfying.

An engaging Mafia story spiked with some surprises.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2022

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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HIDDEN PICTURES

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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