HEARTWOOD

A second rangy Texas crime opera (Cimarron Rose, 1997) from the Edgar-winning chronicler of bayou detective Dave Robicheaux. This time out, Deaf Smith attorney Billy Bob Holland is handling what looks like a little case: the defense of Wilbur Pickett, a resounding flop who’s been accused by local Croesus Earl Deitrich of stealing $300,000 in bearer bonds and an antique watch. But nothing ever stays little for long in Burke’s monumental novels, and this case simmers with rumors that the watch rightly belonged to rolling-stone Skyler Doolittle; that Deitrich accountant Max Greenbaum was at the point of challenging his boss’s story when he was killed by gang-bangers in Houston; and that the power behind the dangerous games of a Deaf Smith gang called the Purple Hearts is Deitrich and his gay-bashing gay son Jeff. Billy Bob, still haunted by his high-school fling with Deitrich’s wife Peggy Jean—an affair she seems indecently eager to resume—can’t swing a dead cat around his homestead without hitting other predators and the little people they prey on. No sooner has rascally Deitrich pilot Bubba Grimes offered to give evidence against Deitrich than he breaks into the home of Wilbur’s blind wife Kippy Jo, and she’s facing murder charges for shooting him. And when Skyler, hustled into custody by another Deitrich plot, takes it on the lam, his escape ensnares both the fellow-convict who helps him and the sadistic deputy bent on tracking him down. It’s all perfectly familiar to Burke’s legion of fans, of course—from the ancient romance with the spoiled rich girl to the corruption of wealth and power to the violence seething inside gang-bangers and heroes alike—and it’s all done to a turn. Forget Raymond Chandler. The obsessive return of Burke’s ambitious themes, together with his characters’ inexhaustible capacity for courage, tenderness, and rage, makes him the Faulkner of the American crime novel.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-385-48843-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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