The seductive and enticing drama Walsh tries to lay out can be seen coming a mile away across the stunning landscape. The...

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THE LEMON GROVE

Walsh, winner of the Somerset Maugham Prize for her second novel, Once Upon a Time in England (2008), sets her new one in Majorca during the last week of a married couple’s annual summer vacation.

Jenn and Greg are in heaven, lazing about in their familiar house, a rental they just manage to afford on a professor’s salary, enjoying the quiet comfort their long-term marriage provides, when their teenage daughter, Emma, stirs up their last lazy days by bringing her new, inappropriately older boyfriend, Nathan, into their lives. Before long there are hints that Jenn's close inspection of Nathan may be more attraction than careful observation. Soon, she's betraying everyone around her to fulfill her own desires. Walsh is attempting something difficult here, creating a high-minded literary look at adulterous entanglement while also providing a quintessential steamy beach read, with scene after scene of flirtatious signals where spoken words aren’t needed. Instead we get this: “He moves his fingers down over her palm and slots them through hers. She can’t look at him. She stands there, letting him stroke her hand, staring out to sea; he is looking back into the cave. His touch feels like hot, wet earth. Her breathing is staccato, too loud.” The problem is that there’s little reason for any of it to happen; we don’t learn enough about Jenn to be invested in her betrayal of both her husband, who's absent for most of the narrative, and her daughter, who we eventually learn is actually Greg’s offspring and her stepdaughter. It isn't just that Jenn is stereotypically self-absorbed and unlikable; it’s that every character is flat.

The seductive and enticing drama Walsh tries to lay out can be seen coming a mile away across the stunning landscape. The ending is meant to be a cliffhanger, but there’s nothing much to imagine happening next.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-53853-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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