More a collection of stories than a novel, but admirable characters and an ample supply of spine-tingling moments leave an...

TERRAPIN COVE

A historical thriller from debut author Lynch about a vicious murder that serves as the catalyst for a decadeslong family curse.

In the early 19th century on islands in the Chesapeake Bay, Jacob Whalen works hard to make a living while trying to dissociate himself from the name tainted by his father, a thieving murderous picaroon (pirate). But Jacob’s actions on a stormy night may have their own repercussions for his descendants. In the 20th century, young Tig grows up in a family with ties to the Whalens; the connection, among others, isn’t exactly clear. It seems that a family curse has been behind murders, fatal accidents and a festering evil. Though fiction, Lynch’s book is partly based on historical events; as such, the first six chapters, which detail Jacob’s life away from his marauding father, sometimes read like a history lesson more than a narrative—though it ends with a wallop when a storm creates the perfect mood for a massacre. Tig comes across as the story’s focus, but he often shares the spotlight, since most chapters, each with its own title, are their own stories: “Chicken Feed,” for example, is the story of Nick, Tig’s father, working away from his family, with Tig relegated to a supporting role. Still, Tig is a strong, laudable character whom readers see mature from a 12-year-old boy into a grandfather. Perhaps the author’s finest creation is the delicate layer of menace that spreads across the novel. Certain inanimate objects, like a simple statue, are so horrifying that the mere sight of them instills fear. Sherman, another man affected by the curse, has a son—the “boy people talked about”—who dominates the book’s most disturbing moments. In Sherman’s chapter, “The Card Game,” he’s unmistakably frightened by the boy, who imitates animal sounds in lieu of speaking; Sherman even refuses to call him by name. The son’s creepily sudden full-grown appearance in front of Sherman is the book’s most unnerving image. Fortunately, Lynch doesn’t let the loosely connected chapter-stories get out of hand, and she ends it all with a fitting conclusion.

More a collection of stories than a novel, but admirable characters and an ample supply of spine-tingling moments leave an indelible impression.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478233879

Page Count: 236

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2013

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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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