An effective and amusing lottery tale.

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A massive lottery jackpot prompts the denizens of a New Mexico city to contemplate riches and greed.

In Sever’s debut novel, when a lottery’s potential payout climbs as high as $1 billion, it seems as if all the residents of Albuquerque have random chances and massive payoffs on their minds. The Rev. Jon Holiday and his wife, Grace, for instance, have differing views on the subject. Jon attempts to take a distant, philosophical, even slightly disapproving attitude, reminding his wife that greed is the root of all evil, whereas Grace never misses an opportunity to tell her husband that their strip-mall storefront church is perennially low on funds and could immensely benefit from such an astronomical injection of cash. “Every Monday morning,” when the benevolent reverend is at his desk, his wife “counts out the meager Sunday collection in an irritating whisper before depositing the money at the bank.” Lin Tanaka of the Zeniscapes landscaping company tries to take a Zen-like stance on the chance of winning. Guy Springfield wishes his accountant neighbor Nick Sterling good luck in the lottery and is sternly told that winning has nothing to do with luck: “It’s about crunching numbers and reducing the odds to zero—pure mathematics.” The author moves his intriguing story forward with economical skill, believable philosophical inquiry, and a good deal of dry humor. When a pious member of the congregation mentions that Grace is well named, for instance, she muses: “Her dear mother was flying high on magic mushrooms at Woodstock and heard Grace Slick singing ‘White Rabbit’ with Jefferson Airplane when her perfectly named daughter was conceived.” Sever also skillfully explores the characters’ yearnings. Nick is so certain he’s cracked the math of the lottery that he’s already dreaming of his post-victory fame: “In anticipation of that, he’s prepared an eight-page treatise on the Grand Sterling Algorithm for Science. Of course, he simplified the mathematics for his TED Talk which he’s confident will happen.” The book deftly builds to a climax that’s both funny and genuinely touching.

An effective and amusing lottery tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Burning Leaf Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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THE BOY FROM THE WOODS

Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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