A complex, riveting thriller about shocking family secrets.

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In this mystery, a woman learns startling truths about her family.

Lucy Gillespie’s wonderful life in Canada as a thriving artist with a devoted husband is forever changed when she learns she has inherited a substantial trust and a twisted family history. She meets her grandaunt Gracie Hogan, who, at the age of 96, is able to recall key stories about Lucy’s parents, grandparents, and more. Her recordings and Lucy’s own investigation lead to several striking revelations. But Lucy’s pursuit of the truth is challenged by figures who don’t want it disclosed. Juliette Garner is the lawyer who is responsible for the trust Lucy stands to inherit. Juliette’s great-uncles worked with Lucy's grandfather, but the women’s ancestors weren’t perfect, and Juliette is desperate to keep certain secrets from being unearthed. In addition, there is a strange man visiting Gracie who has his own warped connection to Lucy and her family. He wants the land and the money Gracie has now given Lucy, and he’ll do anything to get them. As Lucy continues to delve into her family’s past, she also uncovers her own unsettling memories. The stress of the sudden inheritance and the disturbing secrets begins to have an effect on her. She finds herself waking up in her studio (“her special place”) with finished paintings in front of her of a mysterious figure. Lucy soon discovers that following the clues to family mysteries may reveal more than she ever dreamed of or wanted. Gibbens has crafted a gripping series opener with unpredictable yet believable twists and turns. Lucy’s family’s history is reminiscent of a gothic horror story while her own drama resembles a modern thriller. The author skillfully mixes the dark doings of her unsavory characters with more lighthearted scenes between Lucy and her loved ones. Almost all of the players feel realistic, with intricate and credible character arcs. The tale’s villain is somewhat one-dimensional, but when the antagonist plays off such engaging heroes as Lucy and Gracie, the dialogue and the characters’ reactions make up for it.

A complex, riveting thriller about shocking family secrets.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-03-911291-9

Page Count: 306

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022


Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.

In this mystery, the narrator constantly adds commentary on how the story is constructed.

In 1929, during the golden age of mysteries, a (real-life) writer named Ronald Knox published the “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction,” 10 rules that mystery writers should obey in order to “play fair.” When faced with his own mystery story, our narrator, an author named Ernest Cunningham who "write[s] books about how to write books," feels like he must follow these rules himself. The story seemingly begins on the night his brother Michael calls to ask him to help bury a body—and shows up with the body and a bag containing $267,000. Fast-forward three years, and Ernie’s family has gathered at a ski resort to celebrate Michael’s release from prison. The family dynamics are, to put it lightly, complicated—and that’s before a man shows up dead in the snow and Michael arrives with a coffin in a truck. When the local cop arrests Michael for the murder, things get even more complicated: There are more deaths; Michael tells a story about a coverup involving their father, who was part of a gang called the Sabers; and Ernie still has (most of) the money and isn’t sure whom to trust or what to do with it. Eventually, Ernie puts all the pieces together and gathers the (remaining) family members and various extras for the great denouement. As the plot develops, it becomes clear that there’s a pretty interesting mystery at the heart of this novel, but Stevenson’s postmodern style has Ernie constantly breaking the fourth wall to explain how the structure of his story meets the criteria for a successful detective story. Some readers are drawn to mysteries because they love the formula and logic—this one’s for them. If you like the slow, sometimes-creepy, sometimes-comforting unspooling of a good mystery, it might not be your cup of tea—though the ending, to be fair, is still something of a surprise.

This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-327902-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Mariner Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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