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THE LEFTOVER WOMAN

A highly entertaining page-turner that has a propensity for melodrama and cliché.

A rural Chinese villager becomes a nanny by day and cocktail waitress by night after illegally immigrating to the U.S. in a bid to reclaim her stolen daughter.

Month after month, Jasmine tries to find work in Manhattan's Chinatown, but her lack of documentation compels most aboveboard employers to turn her away. She owes an astronomical sum to the snakeheads—human smugglers—who ferried her to New York. If she doesn’t repay them by a certain date, they’ll force her into prostitution. Overhearing Jasmine petition the manager of a teahouse for a job, a customer offers a cryptic referral: Ask for Aunt Glory at Opium. Opium turns out to be a seedy Asian strip club, Aunt Glory its ruthless proprietress. While Jasmine is repulsed by the nature of the work, she has no choice but to sign on. Her reasons for fleeing China become clear as her backstory is revealed. She is not only escaping her abusive husband, Wen, but also searching for their only child, a daughter taken from Jasmine at birth. Mindful of China’s one-child policy, Wen arranged for the baby to be spirited out of the country in an under-the-table adoption and told Jasmine the baby had died, all because he wanted a son. By snooping through Wen’s email account, Jasmine discovered the truth, identified the adoptive parents as New York City couple Brandon and Rebecca Whitney, and resolved to track down her daughter whatever the cost. Knowing Brandon and Rebecca are in search of live-in help, Jasmine successfully infiltrates the family. She balances her duties with her shifts at Opium, often sneaking back into the Whitney home through a skylight so as not to arouse suspicion. Her plan is to disappear with her daughter after making enough money to both repay the snakeheads and start a new life. But the household is soon victimized by a series of thinly veiled threats, suggesting that someone has cottoned on to Jasmine’s secret. Chapters end on cliffhangers that keep the narrative moving forward. Unfortunately, some of the plot points recall the overwrought beats of a soap opera, such as Jasmine’s will-they, won’t-they relationship with her childhood best friend and a violent confrontation that serves as the novel's climax. Jasmine herself embodies the rom-com trope of the stunning female main character who somehow doesn’t know she’s beautiful.

A highly entertaining page-turner that has a propensity for melodrama and cliché.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9780063031463

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

A one-eyed boy becomes a monster’s prey in this chilling tale of missing children.

Thirteen-year-old Missouri boy Joseph “Patch” Macauley was born with one eye, so he wears an eye patch and imagines himself a pirate. In 1975, he sees a masked man assaulting a girl in the woods. He attacks the man and saves her, but the predator kidnaps him instead. Patch eventually wakes in total darkness in a cellar where a different girl secretly visits him, heard but always unseen. He learns that her name is Grace and that there have been other girls down there before. Grace paints vivid word pictures of the places she’s seen and of stories by authors like Steinbeck. “Pray and stay alive,” she whispers to Patch. Eventually he escapes, but she is nowhere to be found. Searching for Grace is the underlying thread in a complicated quest that takes unexpected turns over the years and might well bring heartbreak. Meanwhile, the bodies of three girls turn up locally, and their parents grieve. Is the town doctor responsible for their deaths? A local school photographer? Both? Patch paints an image of Grace based only on what he’d heard from her in the cellar; then come more paintings and displays in an art gallery—an implausible achievement for an untrained artist. Meanwhile, Grace may be anywhere, and he must find her whether alive or dead. By now an adult, he “pinball[s]” from state to state, meeting with “a dozen families looking for a dozen lost girls.” To sustain himself he robs banks with an unloaded flintlock, and he shares his loot with organizations that are looking for missing children. He has “reasoned the truest proof of life [is] pain,” and he vows that he will die before he quits his search. This is much more than a whodunit, though it fills that bill well. It is also a richly layered tale of love, loss, and hope.

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593798874

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2024

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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