Incongruous title aside, offbeat characters and taut, controlled prose make for a gripping read.

ISLAND OF THE NAKED WOMEN

On a remote Swedish island, simmering tensions lead to murder, and the aftermath is even worse.

While pitching hay in his barn, grim farmer Carl Sigvard falls and breaks his leg. The job of herding his cattle on nearby Shame Island falls to his new, much younger wife Sabina and his son Tobias. A struggling writer who’s just published his first novel, Tobias reluctantly leaves the city and his girlfriend Marit to help his father, with whom he has little in common. Negotiating a relationship with coarse Sabina is another challenge. Also on hand to annoy Tobias are both Sabina’s imposing, mentally challenged son, an aspiring Elvis impersonator, and sneering farm hand Hardy, who’s always lurking in the shadows and contemplating mischief. Ingelize, a childhood schoolmate who’s recently changed the “s” in her birth name to a “z,” unexpectedly shows up with a paperback copy of Tobias’s novel, requesting an autograph. In no time, she confesses a longstanding crush and proposes that the two of them cohabit, a plan that offers more solitude for Tobias’ writing and more time to help Ingelize with her pony rental business. The stress of so many abrasive personalities in close quarters leads to a violent murder. From that point on, the plot turns more psychological, and Frimansson (The Shadow in the Water, 2008, etc.) adds the suggestion that the victim may be alive after all.

Incongruous title aside, offbeat characters and taut, controlled prose make for a gripping read.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-929355-56-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Caravel Mystery Books/Pleasure Boat Studio

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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