A brisk and sure-handed treat.

WILLNOT

From veteran Sallis (Others of My Kind, 2013, etc.) comes this short, charming novel that's part noir mystery and part small-town slice of life.

The story starts fast and portentously (its first four words are "We found the bodies…"), and the book has the form of a suspense novel: there's a bewildering mass grave that must be excavated; a suddenly returned native, Bobby Lowndes, a boyhood-coma survivor who seems to be a military sniper gone AWOL, who keeps managing, wraithlike, to hide in plain sight; a dogged FBI agent named Theodora Ogden in town to track Lowndes; and more. It also has a talky, noirish tone, with lots of snappy patter and sharp, laconic, philosophical observation. But at its core, and satisfyingly, this turns out to be a character-driven novel about a thoroughly thoughtful, decent, compassionate doctor, Lamar Hale, and his community of colleagues, patients, friends, and acquaintances. Lamar and his wisecracking romantic partner, Richard, a teacher, provide a still domestic center around which the chaos revolves. Part of it is the usual stuff of noir, expertly deployed, and part the material of the eccentric-small-town novel. Sallis builds suspense over the many months the story spans by alternating between plot point and shaggy dog anecdote, making the reader wonder when and how the novel's two kinds of plot and rhythm will entwine: when will the violence and darkness finally encroach on this cozy domestic sphere and threaten or destroy it? Sallis' latest has a lot to recommend it: an ingenious and unusual use of the MacGuffin; pungent dialogue; a world that's either dark shot through with abundant light or light shot through with abundant dark; likable, complex characters.

A brisk and sure-handed treat.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-452-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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