Police chases and social commentary come together in this rollicking murder story about an affluent family torn apart by...

The Thruway Killers

A killer and his girlfriend go on the run from the FBI in this crime novel.

Arthur McPhee is the owner of a successful wine and spirits business that operates many liquor stores in the Northeast. He lives in the tony enclave of Whispering Hills, Connecticut, a “bed and breakfast town where only the very wealthy could afford to live.” His younger son, Donald, who is gainfully employed in the family business, is getting married, while his older son, Droogan, is practically middle-aged, unemployed, disheveled, overweight, and smokes crack. Arthur is horrified by Droogan’s listlessness, having watched him “flunking out of college and then flunking out of life.” Droogan enters into a romantic entanglement with Angela, one of the household’s black maids. Arthur tries to buy off Angela so that she won’t marry Droogan, and she readily accepts the money. Meanwhile, Arthur’s third wife, Sabrina, harbors a secret hatred of her husband. She enlists Droogan in a plan to kill Arthur for his money, which the son agrees to do because he is so upset about his father trying to pay off Angela. When Droogan accidentally kills the wrong person, he and Angela skip town, attempting to flee to Canada. Pursued by the formidable Agent Roderigo Rojas of the FBI and a mercenary named the Spartan, Droogan slips into a shadowy religious cult, where his problems begin to multiply. Havel (The Orphan of Mecca, 2015, etc.) packs a good deal into his novel, which at first glance may appear to be a simple crime story. Murdering a family member to get his money is an old routine, but the author develops the book’s diverse characters in a layered enough way to give the story more substance than its lighthearted tone would indicate. Themes of interracial or interreligious marriage predominate, from both a black and white perspective. Havel seems interested in whether the American take on group politics is universal and whether crossing lines leads to ruin. As the body count increases, readers learn more about Rojas and some troubled members of the cult, leading to a climax that is a bit far-fetched but still a lot of fun.

Police chases and social commentary come together in this rollicking murder story about an affluent family torn apart by greed, prejudice, and its own foibles.

Pub Date: May 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-68122-840-2

Page Count: 430

Publisher: America Star Books

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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