A sufficient mystery elevated by a pragmatic and able heroine.

GHOST NEXT DOOR

From the Alice MacDonald Greer Mystery Series series , Vol. 5

A Texas lawyer becomes embroiled in a case of murder, arson, and deceit in this fifth installment of a thriller series.

Attorney Alice MacDonald Greer is chairing the Rules Committee at the First Annual Coffee Creek Barbecue Competition. She’s anticipating the occasional complaint but certainly not the body she stumbles on. The murder victim is John Pine, a food writer who had made a few enemies, including two renowned chefs acting as guest judges for the competition. Unfortunately, locals suspect Alice’s friend M.A. Ellison of the homicide, as she has an unmistakable link to the murder weapon. This gives Alice incentive to identify the real killer, but she already has her hands full. She has lost at least some business, likely due to the influence of Coffee Creek banker Clay Black. He thinks Alice is supporting her pal Red Griffin, a CPA who’s running against Clay in the election for the electric co-op board. Alice is also representing Clay’s estranged nephew, Caswell Bond, who just closed on a ranch that the banker had been interested in purchasing. This is the same property with a house that someone later decides to torch, and soon Alice is looking for a murderer and an arsonist—quite possibly the same person. Foster’s (Ghost Dagger, 2017, etc.) recurring protagonist deftly handles multiple tasks and hurdles. Not only is she running her law practice and tracking down criminals, she also finds herself in peril, as when someone shoots at her. The progressively complicated—though never convoluted—story ultimately includes drones and espionage. While who’s behind most or all of these activities isn’t particularly surprising, watching Alice piece together the puzzle is riveting, as the tale showcases her sharp reasoning. Alice and her friends are often refreshingly blunt, prompting the book’s crisp dialogue. For example, Red, who may be regretting her bid for the co-op board, informs Alice: “If ever again I tell you I want to run for anything, dogcatcher, whatever, just shoot me.”

A sufficient mystery elevated by a pragmatic and able heroine.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-16827-1

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Stuart's Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2018

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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