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A gripping murder mystery with absorbing subplots and a superlative cast.

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The brutal killing of a Minnesota ex-priest stirs up dark secrets in this thriller.

After she lets a prime suspect get away, Det. Paige McGraw is determined to prove herself at the St. Paul homicide unit. Her latest case is a body in a college library showing signs of strangulation and post-mortem mutilation. The victim is Father Paul Sayer, a defrocked priest and convicted child molester out on parole. Readers know that his killer, called “Friend” (as he signed a note to Sayer), meticulously covers his tracks and already has a second target in mind. Meanwhile, Paige and her partner and potential mentor, Inspector Clarissa Wright, investigate with the assumption that the murder ties to Sayer’s disturbing crime and someone is out for revenge. But this increasingly complicated case soon ropes in a priest as well as a local businessman who’s reputedly the “richest person in Minnesota” and maybe even the country. The detectives hope a probable witness—student and assistant librarian Jiāo Xiè—can lead them to the murderer before he kills again. Bennetts’ deliberately paced story supplies multiple narrative perspectives. The tale oscillates among several characters, including Friend, the investigating partners, and, in flashbacks to an unknown time, a boy who falls prey to Sayer. As these characters take precedence over the mystery, it won’t be long before readers unmask the killer. The cast nevertheless enthralls, from appealing Jiāo to charmingly gruff Lou Nicosia, a former cop who’s now working a campus security job. Various characters are immersed in all sorts of things, including blackmail, a coverup, and anonymous calls from a burner phone. One player may be hiding sexual proclivities. The exciting final act is pleasantly unexpected, both in terms of its setting and characters. This leads to a coda that’s just as surprising and unforgettable.

A gripping murder mystery with absorbing subplots and a superlative cast.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023

ISBN: 9781667873657

Page Count: 360

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2022

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YOU'D LOOK BETTER AS A GHOST

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.

Dexter meets Killing Eve in Wallace’s dark comic thriller debut.

While accepting condolences following her father’s funeral, 30-something narrator Claire receives an email saying that one of her paintings is a finalist for a prize. But her joy is short-circuited the next morning when she learns in a second apologetic note that the initial email had been sent to the wrong Claire. The sender, Lucas Kane, is “terribly, terribly sorry” for his mistake. Claire, torn between her anger and suicidal thoughts, has doubts about his sincerity and stalks him to a London pub, where his fate is sealed: “I stare at Lucas Kane in real life, and within moments I know. He doesn’t look sorry.” She dispatches and buries Lucas in her back garden, but this crime does not go unnoticed. Proud of her meticulous standards as a serial killer, Claire wonders if her grief for her father is making her reckless as she seeks to identify the blackmailer among the members of her weekly bereavement support group. The female serial killer as antihero is a growing subgenre (see Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, 2018), and Wallace’s sociopathic protagonist is a mordantly amusing addition; the tool she uses to interact with ordinary people while hiding her homicidal nature is especially sardonic: “Whenever I’m unsure of how I’m expected to respond, I use a cliché. Even if I’m not sure what it means, even if I use it incorrectly, no one ever seems to mind.” The well-written storyline tackles some tough subjects—dementia, elder abuse, and parental cruelty—but the convoluted plot starts to drag at the halfway point. Given the lack of empathy in Claire’s narration, most of the characters come across as not very likable, and the reader tires of her sneering contempt.

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780143136170

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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DAUGHTER OF MINE

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

The loss of her police officer father and the discovery of an abandoned car in a local lake raise chilling questions regarding a young woman’s family history.

When Hazel Sharp returns to her hometown of Mirror Lake, North Carolina, for her father’s memorial, she and the other townspeople are confronted by a challenging double whammy: As they’re grieving the loss of beloved longtime police officer Detective Perry Holt, a disturbing sight appears in the lake, whose waterline is receding because of an ongoing drought—an old, unidentifiable car, which has likely been lurking there for years. Hazel temporarily leaves her Charlotte-based building-renovation business in the capable hands of her partners and reconnects with her brothers, Caden and Gage; her Uncle Roy; her old fling and neighbor, Nico; and her schoolfriend, Jamie, now a mother and married to Caden. Tiny, relentless suspicions rise to the metaphorical surface along with that waterlogged vehicle: There have been a slew of minor break-ins; two people go missing; and then, a second abandoned car is discovered. The novel digs deeper into Hazel’s family history—her father was a widow when he married Hazel’s mother, who later left the family, absconding with money and jewels—and Miranda, a consummate professional when it comes to exposing the small community tensions that naturally arise when people live in close proximity for generations, exposes revelation after twisty revelation: “Everything mattered disproportionately in a small town. Your success, but also your failure. Everyone knows might as well have been our town motto.”

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781668010440

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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