Schweig’s debut novel is a psychological murder mystery that traces the undoing of a family after tragedy strikes.
The Harris family, by all appearances, has it all in. Wealthy, beautiful and adored, parents Jim and Mary Beth enjoy the good life with their four children and many friends in idyllic Monroeville, Mo. But all is not as it seems both for the community and its favorite family—one night, Jim Harris is murdered while dozing in his home, unraveling the security of his family. As the police swarm, eager to determine who could have done the unthinkable, each member of the Harris family changes dramatically in the aftermath of their tragic loss. Mary Beth sheds her old skin as the domestic mother and emerges as a promiscuous femme fatale entangled in a string of affairs. This raises suspicion within her own son, witness to the fact that his mother “now moved, talked and even drove the car with a personal authority he has never seen…she had transformed herself into…a freewheeling spirit…as if some yoke had been lifted from her soul.” Even more disturbing than Mary Beth’s shocking response to her husband’s death is the contrast to the reaction of her daughter, Jennifer Harris, whose trauma from losing her father has left her unresponsive and emotionally scarred. Mary Beth blithely ignores Jennifer’s obvious need for help, leaving the problem to psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Adler to solve. But will his own emotional baggage prevent him from seeing this through? Did someone from Jennifer’s own family kill Jim, and is she the one who knows? Told in quick chapters and straightforward prose, this mystery novel takes on grief, trauma, murder and even insanity with a deft hand. The layers of insight and research are apparent as the characters struggle with one another and themselves with an admirable verisimilitude. Readers who find mysteries to be lacking in depth and character development will be pleased to find both areas well tended to here, executed effectively within a fast-paced and exciting read.
A gripping tale of suspense, family dynamics and trauma’s fallout.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.