A thoughtful, and thought-provoking, meditation on love, loss, and legacy.

THE GRETCHEN QUESTION

A woman must decide whether to reveal her most intimate secrets before she takes them to the grave.

Roberta Chase wakes up one morning and takes inventory of what she has to do that day: go to a work meeting, put away her best friend’s trash cans, and meet with her therapist. But from the beginning, there is an undercurrent of anxiety to every moment of Roberta’s day that suggests these activities, and this day, may not be as mundane as they seem. Told from Roberta's perspective and relying heavily on flashbacks, the novel reveals a great deal about what has brought Roberta to this point—and what may push her to take action, to make a decision she has been avoiding for most of her life. These flashbacks introduce us to the people in her world, especially her best friend, Grettie, and her estranged son, Will. And with each fragment of story, we are faced with a singular rule of life: Every choice we make has consequences. As Roberta proceeds through this day, heading toward a significant face-to-face confrontation, there are hints that she may not be presenting even us, the readers, with the full truth. And then the ending of the book casts doubt on Roberta's honesty, or her grip on reality, in a big way. As a reader, when faced with a possibly unreliable narrator, we wonder: How much can we trust anything they have told us, any piece of their story, if we can’t trust the “reality” of their own ending? But, in the case of Treadway’s novel, this unreliability also speaks to deeper layers of the novel. Roberta is caught in the trap of her own “Gretchen Question” (an allusion to Faust explained within the novel), but there are also larger questions posed by the novel to the reader: How do you qualify and find value in your life when you are nearing the end of it? What do you owe those you leave behind? And what do you owe to yourself?

A thoughtful, and thought-provoking, meditation on love, loss, and legacy.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-883285-89-0

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

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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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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