An engrossing legal mystery with an unforgettable villain.


A Memphis, Tennessee, attorney defends the first lady of the United States, who’s facing charges of murdering her spouse in Bates’ thriller.

Maddie Kincade may be a “small-time country lawyer,” but her latest case is in Washington, D.C. Jana Sinclair, her client, is a friend whom Maddie’s parents took in as a 15-year-old when her mom was institutionalized. She also happens to now be the first lady, and she’s accused of killing her husband, President Graham Sinclair. The evidence is damning: Secret Service agent Jack McCaffrey found Jana holding a bloody dagger in the Lincoln bedroom; the couple regularly fought; and she even provided authorities with a full, signed confession. For support, Maddie brings her mentor, professor Ollie Dodd, and her whip-smart assistant, Carly Gibbs. Unfortunately, Ollie is displaying signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and although he discovers evidence that could turn the case in Maddie’s favor, he quickly forgets it. Although Jack believes the first lady is guilty, he’s quite taken with her attorney; it’s a mutual feeling, and romance quickly becomes a possibility. Meanwhile, in Texas, a man named Hoyt Tolliver has a deep-rooted animosity toward Maddie. When he hears that she’s in Washington, he travels there on a murderous mission. This novel is relatively lengthy at more than 475 pages, but it moves at a steady clip. Bates keeps his scenes and details concise, which generally benefits the story and characters; the subtle romantic relationship between Maddie and Jack is particularly notable. The courtroom scenes, on the other hand, suffer a bit, as they’re too short for much intensity or intrigue to develop. Moreover, the subplot involving Tolliver occasionally sidelines the main murder plot, particularly in the final act. That said, Tolliver’s backstory and motivation are truly disturbing, and he’s a frightening, formidable menace throughout. There are also several twists in Maddie’s case that may surprise even the most savvy readers.

An engrossing legal mystery with an unforgettable villain.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69173-197-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2020

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A young man has been stabbed to death on a houseboat...that much is clear.

Hawkins' third novel, after her smash debut with The Girl on the Train (2015) and a weak follow-up with Into the Water (2017), gets off to a confusing start. A series of vignettes introduce numerous characters—Irene, Deidre, Laura, Miriam, Daniel (dead), Carla, Theo, Angela (dead)—all of whom live or lived in a very small geographical area and have overlapping connections and reasons to be furious at each other. We can all agree that the main question is who killed Daniel, the 23-year-old on the houseboat, but it is soon revealed that his estranged mother had died just a few weeks earlier—a drunk who probably fell, but maybe was pushed, down the stairs—and his cousin also fell to his death some years back. Untimely demise runs in the family. The highlight of these goings-on is Laura, a tiny but ferocious young woman who was seen running from Daniel's boat with blood on her mouth and clothes the last night he was alive. Physically and mentally disabled by an accident in her childhood, Laura is so used to being accused and wronged (and actually she is quite the sticky fingers) that she's not surprised when she's hauled in for Daniel's murder, though she's pretty sure she didn't do it. The secondary crimes and subplots include abduction, sexual assault, hit-and-run, petty larceny, plagiarism, bar brawling, breaking and entering, incest, and criminal negligence, and on top of all this there's a novel within a novel that mirrors events recalled in flashback by one of the characters. When Irene reads it, she's infuriated by "all the to-ing and fro-ing, all that jumping around in the timeline....Just start at the beginning, for god's sake. Why couldn't people just tell a story straight any longer, start to finish?" Hmmmmm.


Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1123-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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