A thriller that offers a good read for a week at the beach.

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SCUBA

In this novel, scuba diver Olsen (The Hero of Blind Pig Island and Other Island Stories, 2012, etc.) takes readers from a shipwreck 200 years ago to a present-day tale of greed, political intrigue, and mayhem.

The story starts with a rousing sea battle in 1806 that sees the fearsome French warship Imperial destroyed, sunk by the British off small Charming Island in the Caribbean. In the aftermath, an impressed American seaman, Reginald “Reggie” V. Wilson, is murdered by a French sailor named Francois Javert. Fast-forward 150 years to young Warren Wilson in Minnesota, whose family lore tells of Reggie’s murder. Warren becomes fascinated with scuba diving, even after (or perhaps because of) the drowning of his older brother, Steven, in 1955, after he saved Warren’s life. Warren narrowly escapes a financial scam but comes out of it with a boat that he renames Esteban. He becomes a dive captain on Charming Island, where he lives a rough life, save for his lover, Rosa, and her son, Armando. He’s indebted to a fat man named, yes, Javert, who comes off as a kind of Caribbean Jabba the Hutt. Warren (now known as “Captain Will”) is apolitical, but a vote is looming for the Charming Islanders. Will they remain a tiny British commonwealth or choose independence? For his own nefarious reasons, Javert is pushing for independence, and he hires a true supervillain named Wesley Bens for his cause. All of this climaxes in a suitably white-knuckle fashion, as good guys seek to triumph over bad. Olsen can turn a good phrase (‘narcissism became both his cancer and his chemo,” he writes at one point about Warren) and he gives his characters each the attention that he or she deserves. The plot is also well-paced, and Olsen keeps the twists coming: for example, some Cuban commandos show up, and Captain Will gets support from his old scuba instructor, Freddie-the-Frogman; his old love, Ruth Van Dorn; and a Texas couple, the Whites, who are initially obnoxious but eventually heroic, as redemption is a major theme of the book. 

A thriller that offers a good read for a week at the beach.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hoffman House Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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