Despite the occasional awkwardness, Leodas continually moves the story forward.

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THE LETTER FROM MAGDA

In Leodas’ thriller, Johanna Wagner and Michael Warner become the unwitting catalysts in a tense conspiracy, launched long before they were born, to gain economic and political control of the United States government.

Their story begins in 1945, with the brutal murders of seven seemingly random people in Milwaukee, Wis. By 1995, Johanna has just graduated from college, and Michael is working for a U.S. Senator. Although their lives appear to be on different trajectories, they have much in common. They’re both pampered children of wealthy parents and oblivious to the dangerous secrets of their parents’ pasts. These secrets are soon violently revealed, as is their link to each other through the powerful men who have shaped both their lives. The tension builds steadily as Leodas (A Sorority Of Angels, 2012) gradually pulls the disparate storylines together in a chilling climax full of twists and turns. As their formerly protected lives unravel, Johanna and Michael confront the deadly threats against them with surprising resourcefulness and tenacity. There’s enough foreshadowing to keep each plot twist from being a complete shock but enough intrigue to keep the pages turning. Leodas’ unusual writing style sometimes distracts. He frequently avoids the passive voice by simply deleting “is” and “was,” a technique that’s often unsuccessful: “By nightfall, Johanna tormented to the edge of control.” Other sentences appear to be carefully crafted to avoid similar writing pitfalls, resulting in nearly incomprehensible prose:  “Both forty-six years old, married upon finishing high school and enjoying excellent health except for an occasional ache in Erwin’s knees, an old football injury in high school when a speedy running back; the Glory Days of his life.” Still, the author guides the plot with a light hand to keep it believable.

Despite the occasional awkwardness, Leodas continually moves the story forward.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478266891

Page Count: 382

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2012

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A lackluster and underdeveloped story.

INVISIBLE GIRL

The disappearance of a teenage girl disrupts the lives of her former therapist, his family, and a lonely neighbor.

Seventeen-year-old Saffyre Maddox has been in therapy with Roan Fours, a child psychologist, for three years for self-harming after the deaths of her parents. When Roan suggests Saffyre is ready to move on, she feels betrayed and begins following Roan and spying on his wife, Cate, and two teenage children. She learns Roan is having an affair but also that multiple sexual assaults are taking place in his neighborhood. When Saffyre disappears after her blood is found by the apartments across the street from Roan’s house, Owen Pick, one of Roan and Cate’s neighbors, is arrested and jailed based on his history of visiting incel websites after having been placed on leave from his job following sexual misconduct complaints. At the same time, Cate becomes suspicious of Roan’s lies and where their son, Josh, is sneaking out to. Jewell’s latest domestic thriller features an array of characters set in a posh London neighborhood but struggles to create any real tension regarding Saffyre’s disappearance. The themes of sexual assault and incel culture are only marginally developed despite the key part each plays in the story. As such, even with these subjects, Jewell's latest is not nearly as dark as her earlier novels. This might be a welcome change if the characters had emotional depth or unique narrative voices, but they too are only superficially realized.

A lackluster and underdeveloped story.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982137-33-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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The solution is maddeningly simple but the construction, simply masterful.

ONE BY ONE

Our contemporary Agatha Christie offers up her version of And Then There Were None when 11 people are stranded in a ritzy ski chalet and begin dying one by one.

By the numbers, the streaming app Snoop is devastatingly successful, and the company is on the cusp of a major buyout—if the shareholders vote to take this route. The founders, Topher and Eva, are torn, and the other three shareholders are being courted to choose sides. Most of the pressure falls on Liz, an awkward outlier when compared with the glamorous, beautiful people who head up the company. Though she doesn't work directly for Snoop anymore, Liz is included in the leadership retreat: It's her and eight other board members at a lush, remote French ski chalet for a little powder, a little pampering, and a little back-channel business. Erin and Danny, the caretakers of the chalet, notice tension among the members of the Snoop group from the beginning, but overall it seems like just another wealthy, entitled corporate gathering. The weather on top of the mountain grows increasingly dangerous, and when nine people go out to ski and only eight return, fear and suspicion begin to grow. Then there's an avalanche, and the chalet is cut off from contact with the outside world. Soon, another group member dies, apparently poisoned, and then another is murdered because of something she saw. The survivors must split up to search for help before there's no one left. Alternating chapters between Liz's and Erin’s points of view, Ware does what she does best: Gives us a familiar locked-door mystery setup and lets the tension and suspicion marinate until they reach fever pitch. Another win for Ware and her adaptations of classic mystery traditions.

The solution is maddeningly simple but the construction, simply masterful.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8881-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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