Mac’s fifth adventure is just as quirky as its predecessors (A Bad Reputation, 2014, etc.), with the bonus of a stronger,...

EVIL TURNS

Covens, centennial celebrations, and murders rock a small North Carolina town.

Madeline Maclin Investigations must juggle a surprising number of cases for such a quiet rural area as Celosia. Former beauty queen Mac and her husband, Jerry Fairweather, a reformed con man who works as a short-order cook, quickly become involved in several murder cases. First the body of a young man is found in a local vineyard covered in witchcraft signs. There used to be a coven of sorts in Celosia, and although the girls with the Darkrose tattoo claim they’re just fans of a popular book series, some interested parties fear they’re following in the footsteps of their elders—in some cases, their mothers. Mac, who has no client for the vineyard murder, is soon hired by Amanda Price, a woman of considerable substance in Celosia, who’s determined to stage an outdoor play honoring Emmaline Ross, one of the state’s earliest female vintners. Pushy, opinionated Amanda steps on so many toes trying to get the project going that she’s the obvious suspect when Harold Stover, who violently opposed her, is found dead. Undaunted, Amanda makes plenty of new enemies casting the play, especially as she plans to play the lead role. But wouldn’t they rather kill Amanda than Harold? At length Mac learns that both Amanda and her unacknowledged flower-child sister grew up in a local commune. Jerry’s insights as the music and lyric writer for the play help uncover more clues. So does his talent for picking locks. Even though Amanda’s the worst possible client, Mac, convinced of her innocence, continues her search for a killer or two.

Mac’s fifth adventure is just as quirky as its predecessors (A Bad Reputation, 2014, etc.), with the bonus of a stronger, more complex mystery.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4642-0521-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A top-notch psychological thriller.

COLD COLD HEART

In Hoag’s (The 9th Girl, 2013, etc.) latest, talented young newscaster Dana Nolan is left to navigate a psychological maze after escaping a serial killer.

While recuperating at home in Shelby Mills, Indiana, Dana meets her former high school classmates John Villante and Tim Carver. Football hero Tim is ashamed of flunking out of West Point, and now he’s a sheriff’s deputy. After Iraq and Afghanistan tours, John’s home with PTSD, "angry and bitter and dark." Dana survived abduction by serial killer Doc Holiday, but she still suffers from the gruesome attack by "the man who ruined her life, destroyed her career, shattered her sense of self, damaged her brain and her face." What binds the trio is their friend Casey Grant, who's been missing five years, perhaps also a Holiday victim, even if "[t]he odds against that kind of coincidence had to be astronomical." Hoag’s first 100 pages are a gut-wrenching dissection of the aftereffects of traumatic brain injury: Dana is plagued by "[f]ear, panic, grief, and anger" and haunted by fractured memories and nightmares. "Before Dana had believed in the inherent good in people. After Dana knew firsthand their capacity for evil." Impulsive and paranoid, Dana obsesses over linking Casey’s disappearance to Holiday, with her misfiring brain convincing her that "finding the truth about what had happened to Casey [was] her chance of redemption." But then Hoag tosses suspects into the narrative faster than Dana can count: Roger Mercer, Dana’s self-absorbed state senator stepfather; Mack Villante, who left son John with "no memories of his father that didn’t include drunkenness and cruelty"; even Hardy, the hard-bitten, cancer-stricken detective who investigated Casey’s disappearance. Tense, tightly woven, with every minor character, from Dana’s fiercely protective aunt to Mercer’s pudgy campaign chief, ratcheting up the tension, Hoag’s narrative explodes with an unexpected but believable conclusion.

A top-notch psychological thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-95454-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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