Loose pacing and improbabilities mar a sometimes-stirring story of women fighting back.

When a young girl, her mother, and her grandmother are kidnapped, secrets come to the surface as they fight to escape.

Single mother Anne, a therapist, has always been close to her daughter, Thea. But now, not long after the two moved from a small town to a lovely new house in Burlington, Vermont, the 12-year-old has turned surly and uncommunicative. Anne prescribes herself a weekend getaway with Thea and Rose, a warmhearted bakery owner who is Anne’s mom and Thea’s beloved “Mimi.” But when they go out for a short hike in a remote (read: no cell signal) park on a bitterly cold day, the three are abducted by a stranger, who takes them at gunpoint to an isolated cabin. Thea was badly injured when he attacked them, the temperature is plummeting, their captor’s intentions are mysterious but clearly not kind, and they must rely on each other. Point of view changes with each chapter, moving among Anne, Thea, Rose, and the nameless man. Each character’s past comes into play, notably Anne’s marriage to Thea’s abusive father, although all of them have dark secrets. Some of the backstories contain crucial revelations—Rose is a lot steelier than she looks—but sometimes they go on at such length that the tension of the abduction sags. Thrillers often hinge on coincidence and improbable circumstances, but this one strains credulity with some, such as an unusual medical condition revealed late in the plot. Waite wrote a successful memoir, A Beautiful, Terrible Thing (2017), about her marriage to a con man, and that experience resonates in this novel. But awkward prose and structural weaknesses make it less than compelling.

Loose pacing and improbabilities mar a sometimes-stirring story of women fighting back.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4583-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020


Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Close Quickview