A gripping and intelligently executed political drama.

FAITHLESS ELECTOR

In this debut thriller, a college professor stumbles on a plot to rig an American presidential election. 

The presidential contest in 2016 is vertiginously close, and Diane Redmond becomes the first female occupant of the Oval Office, narrowly winning by four electoral votes. Matthew Yamashita is a political science graduate student in Seattle conducting a national demographic survey of all the Electoral College voters, the subject of his dissertation under his adviser, professor Duncan Calder. Matthew begins to discover some statistical anomalies: there’s an unusually high number of electors turning up dead during the election, all of them Democrats, all of them in states dominated by Democratic voters and without laws constraining faithless electors. He decides to call an old classmate who became a journalist about his findings; the reporter suspiciously turns up dead immediately after. Matthew then sends his research to Calder, but the grad student also dies, in a hit-and-run incident while riding his bicycle. Calder, initially skeptical about Matthew’s conspiratorial conclusions, becomes frightened after someone vandalizes his office and attempts to break into his home. He calls a former graduate student, Imogen Trager, an FBI agent already investigating voting irregularities in Illinois. Trager arranges for Calder to meet James Novaczeck, Redmond’s campaign manager, but he’s assassinated before the meeting takes place, making the professor seem like a prime suspect. Unsure how far the conspiracy has spread, Trager and Calder find themselves on the run, trying to solve the case and save their lives. In his novel, the first installment of a series, McCrone renders the unlikely in tantalizingly plausible strokes. The plot pulses ahead rapidly, and its dramatic march finds a climactic conclusion in under 200 pages. In addition, the author affectingly depicts the blooming romance between Trager and Calder, both lonely, frustrated souls who have too often sought solace in their careers. (At one point, the professor recalls: “Imogen’s voice often drifted to him, like a half-remembered scent on the air. The coolness of that voice, its dusky lilt haunted him.”) The entire book hinges on an explanation of the byzantine Electoral College, something McCrone manages to supply in mercifully clear prose that never devolves into dry, textbook-style exposition. 

A gripping and intelligently executed political drama. 

Pub Date: March 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-79783-9

Page Count: 216

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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