An impressive, wonderfully detailed legal thriller showing the best and worst of humanity.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2022

BLUE LAKE

An administrative law judge finds himself both in love and in mortal danger in this debut mystery.

Judge Jason Erickson loves his work enforcing Environmental Protection Agency laws even if it is often a strenuous, uphill battle. Big money has tremendous influence in Wisconsin, and the political power structure is stacked against him. And he is slowly falling in love with Tara Highsmith, a science reporter who often attends his hearings. Tara tries to save her marriage, but her cheating husband wants out, clearing the way for her and Jason to plan a future. Meanwhile, there is a crucial case involving lakefront condominiums (“slipominiums”) backed by the sketchy Tommy Calandro. The attorney pleading the case for a permit is a hotshot lawyer named Earl Franks whose reckless lifestyle has made him beholden to Calandro. Bribes are dangled; threats are made. Jason records some of these exchanges. In the pivotal point in the book, Jason—about to take his findings to the police—is shot down in the street, as is Tara. The rest of the story focuses on a courtroom drama leading up to a startling conclusion. Boldt is a retired administrative law judge and passionate about justice and the environment, and this shows on every page of this remarkable novel. It’s no surprise that the courtroom scenes are so well handled. Jason is a finely drawn and thoughtful character, as is Tara. Their falling in love is delightfully paced. These are idealistic and wary people who make their own slow magic. The author even manages to make Earl a borderline sympathetic, or at least understandable, character. There is humor even in the worst of times, as when Earl tries to kill himself but finally realizes that his hybrid Lexus will not consistently spew enough carbon monoxide to do the deed. At some points, Boldt displays a wry wit: Jason “felt righteously indignant that he couldn’t even feel righteously indignant.” And the author’s vivid descriptions of the Wisconsin countryside will make readers put the Dairy State on their bucket lists.

An impressive, wonderfully detailed legal thriller showing the best and worst of humanity.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63299-516-2

Page Count: 312

Publisher: River Grove Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Well-drawn characters introduce the criminal underworld to the occult kind in a breathless and compelling plot.

HELL BENT

From the Alex Stern series , Vol. 2

A Yale sophomore fights for her life as she balances academics with supernatural extracurriculars in this smart fantasy thriller, the second in a series.

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is a member of Lethe House, the ninth of Yale’s secret societies. And not just any member—she’s Virgil, the officer who conducts the society's rituals. In the world of Bardugo’s Alex Stern series, Yale’s secret societies command not just powerful social networks, but actual magic; it’s Lethe’s job to keep that magic in control. Alex is new to the role. She had to take over in a hurry after the previous Virgil, Darlington, her mentor and love interest, disappeared in a cliffhanger at the end of the first book. He appears to be in hell, but is he stuck there for good? Alex and Pamela Dawes—Lethe’s Oculus, or archivist/administrator—have found a reference to a pathway called a Gauntlet that can open a portal to hell, but can they find the Gauntlet itself? And what about the four murderers the Gauntlet ritual requires? Meanwhile, Alex’s past as a small-time drug dealer is catching up with her, adding gritty street crime to the demonic white-collar evil the Yale crowd tends to prefer. The plot is relentless and clever, and the writing is vivid, intelligent, and funny at just the right moments, but best of all are the complex characters, such as the four murderers, each with a backstory that makes it possible for the reader to trust them to enter hell and have the strength to leave again. Like the first book, this one ends with a cliffhanger.

Well-drawn characters introduce the criminal underworld to the occult kind in a breathless and compelling plot.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-31310-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

more