A sometimes-effective mystery that suffers from some distracting affectations.

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The Hunting Ground

From the Deuce Mora Mystery series , Vol. 2

Journalist Heller (The Someday File, 2014) returns to Chicago for another gritty and complicated Deuce Mora mystery.

Deuce, a star columnist for the Chicago Journal newspaper, is taking a relaxing walk through a local park with her boyfriend, Mark Hearst, when Mark’s dog finds a human femur that turns out to be a child’s remains. An investigation by the police and the Department of Children and Family Services uncovers more and more bodies of children, but city officials and feds try to keep the story quiet. The local police, for example, won’t say anything about the situation officially, but Deuce gets some off-the-record help from Sgt. Pete Rizzo, a Chicago Police spokesman; Dr. Tony Donato, a medical examiner; and some old friends in high places. The information eventually points her to a child trafficking ring. The National Security Agency and the FBI try to block her investigation, and Deuce eventually finds out that the murders are tangled up in city politics and international intrigue. She keeps pushing, even after her life is threatened multiple times and one of her sources is murdered. Along the way, she meets a kid named Charles; he and his brother are in separate foster homes, and his situation breaks her heart. Heller sets a lot of plates spinning in the first half of this book, and it can sometimes seem overly convenient when Deuce correctly guesses what’s going on. Things tighten up in the second half, which is expertly paced and leads to a thrilling conclusion. After the action is over, though, Heller gives readers a history lesson in Middle East politics—a forced attempt to add more relevance to the story that falls flat. Heller also peppers her prose with some clunky phrases that ape the language of hard-boiled detective novels; at one point, for example, Pete Rizzo describes another character as being “tough as the Bears’ search for a decent quarterback,” and Deuce communicates her sadness at a betrayal by saying, “To paraphrase the words of Marlon Brando to Rod Steiger in the 1954 film, On the Waterfront, he cudda been a contenda, he cudda been somebody.”

A sometimes-effective mystery that suffers from some distracting affectations.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-77961-3

Page Count: 410

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2016

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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