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SMALL TOWN SLASHERS

THE DRIFTER

A thrilling mystery with surprises and a lot of heart.

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In Gernhaelder’s debut horror novel, the arrival of a mysterious man in a small town leads to the revelation of old secrets.

In 2011, journalist Jenny Maysure is having dinner with her boyfriend, Larry Hirsch, in the only diner in her small town of Traders’ Point when a drifter comes in from the rain. Upon seeing Larry, the man grabs him and asks him if he’s a man named Heis; he’s not, and it’s soon revealed that no one in town seems to know anyone by that name. The drifter, who calls himself Maverick Dunn, gets a room at the Hunters’ Lodge, where he meets Hank and Sue, the latter of whom takes a shine to him, but Hank is suspicious. Maverick asks Dr. Ike Sindell about Heis as well before purchasing guns and a knife from Brusard’s Sporting Goods. Meanwhile, Jenny, who works for the local paper, starts to look into who this Heis person could be. After the drifter disappears from Hunters’ Lodge, multiple murders strike the area. Sheriff JayChow is hesitant to say they’re the work of a serial killer, so it’s up to Jenny to sniff out the truth, using information from her cousin in the FBI and clues the killer left behind; along the way, she finds out who Maverick really is and what Heis did so many years ago. However, the investigation strains her relationship with Larry, who already struggles with his distant father, Stan. Overall, this is a fast-paced and exciting thriller with many unexpected twists, which, in turn, highlight and support the character development. The large cast and brisk storyline make it a bit hard to keep track of everyone at times, but every major player receives detailed characterization. Jenny’s determination to get the full story feels authentic and important given her connections to seemingly everyone in town; Gernhaelder makes clear just how much Jenny cares about them all. Larry’s relationship with his dad is also handled well, and the many plot strands eventually weave together in a believable way.

A thrilling mystery with surprises and a lot of heart.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-03-913156-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2022

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CITY IN RUINS

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

The dramatic conclusion to the trilogy about two New England crime families begun in City on Fire (2022) and City of Dreams (2023).

Near the end of his journey, multimillionaire Danny Ryan watches a casino implode in a mushroom cloud of dust and muses about his life’s implosions: “The cancer that killed his wife, the depression that destroyed his love, the moral rot that took his soul.” Danny is from Providence, Rhode Island, and desperately tried to leave his criminal life behind him. But using a ton of ill-gotten gains, he invests heavily in Las Vegas properties. Congress is conducting an investigation into gambling that could destroy his casino business and even land him in jail. An FBI agent plans to take Danny down for major sins he’d like to repent for. Meanwhile, can he make peace with his enemies? Nope, doesn’t look like it. Even if the parties involved want to put the past behind them, the trouble is that they don’t trust each other. Is Vern Winegard setting Dan up? Is Dan setting Vern up? “Trust? Trust is children waiting for Santa Claus.” So what could have been a “Kumbaya,” nobody-wants-to-read-this story turns into a grisly bloodletting filled with language that would set Sister Mary Margaret’s wimple on fire—figuratively speaking, as she’s not in the book. But the Catholic reference is appropriate: Two of the many colorful characters of ill repute are known as the Altar Boys, serving “Last Communion” to their victims. On the law-abiding side and out of the line of fire is an ex-nun-turned-prosecutor nicknamed Attila the Nun, who’s determined to bring justice for a gory matricide. (Rhode Island really had such a person, by the way.) Finally, the prose is just fun: A friend warns Dan about Allie Licata: “In a world of sick fucks, even the sick fucks think Licata’s a sick fuck.” A couple of things to note: This not only ends the trilogy, but it also closes out the author’s career, as he has said he’ll write no more novels.

If you love good crime writing but aren’t familiar with Winslow’s work, read this trilogy in order.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780063079472

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DEVLINS

As an adjunct member says, “You’re not a family, you’re a force.” Exactly, though not in the way you’d expect.

The ne’er-do-well son of a successful Irish American family gets dragged into criminal complications that suggest the rest of the Devlins aren’t exactly the upstanding citizens they appear.

The first 35 years in the life of Thomas “TJ” Devlin have been one disappointment after another to his parents, lawyers who founded a prosperous insurance and reinsurance firm, and his more successful siblings, John and Gabby. A longtime alcoholic who’s been unemployable ever since he did time for an incident involving his ex-girlfriend Carrie’s then 2-year-old daughter, TJ is nominally an investigator for Devlin & Devlin, but everyone knows the post is a sinecure. Things change dramatically when golden-boy John tells TJ that he just killed Neil Lemaire, an accountant for D&D client Runstan Electronics. Their speedy return to the murder scene reveals no corpse, so the brothers breathe easier—until Lemaire turns up shot to death in his car. John’s way of avoiding anything that might jeopardize his status as heir apparent to D&D is to throw TJ under the bus, blaming him for everything John himself has done and adding that you can’t trust anything his brother has said since he’s fallen off the wagon. TJ, who’s maintained his sobriety a day at a time for nearly two years, feels outraged, but neither the police investigating the murder nor his nearest and dearest care about his feelings. Forget the forgettable mystery, whose solution will leave you shrugging instead of gasping, and focus on the circular firing squad of the Devlins, and you’ll have a much better time than TJ.

As an adjunct member says, “You’re not a family, you’re a force.” Exactly, though not in the way you’d expect.

Pub Date: March 26, 2024

ISBN: 9780525539704

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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