Despite a provocative and topical premise, and a strong opening, Picoult fails this time, her seventh, to rise above...

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PLAIN TRUTH

An uneven reworking of tabloid headlines: a young woman is charged with infanticide, and a hard-boiled attorney agrees to defend her. With one crucial distinction: the defendant is Amish.

In the Amish community of Paradise, Pennsylvania, 18-year-old Katie Fisher, unwed, is the chief suspect in the death by asphyxiation of a newborn found in the Fisher family’s barn. A medical exam reveals that Katie has just given birth, but she insists she has never been pregnant. Enter Ellie Hathaway, a 39-year-old (and single) Philadelphia defense attorney visiting her aunt Leda. Leda, also Amish, prevails upon an initially reluctant Ellie to defend Katie. Ellie moves in with the Fishers to prepare Katie’s defense, a device that allows Picoult (Keeping Faith, 1999, etc.) to juxtapose the devout Amish (or Plain Folk) and their spartan way of life with city-slicker Ellie. But as Ellie befriends Katie, unsettling inconsistencies in the latter’s story emerge. As in Rashomon, the truth proves elusive, shifting, and often unwelcome. Is Katie suffering from a genuine psychosis, repressing events too traumatic to remember? Or was she simply trying to conceal an affair and pregnancy she knew would have led to her being shunned by her own people? The drama echoes with conflicts in Ellie’s own life: her loudly ticking biological clock, the end of a tepid relationship with another attorney, and the resumption of a love affair with Coop, her college sweetheart-turned-psychologist (and eventual expert witness on Katie’s behalf). All, of course, will be tidily resolved by trial’s end.

Despite a provocative and topical premise, and a strong opening, Picoult fails this time, her seventh, to rise above paint-by-numbers formula. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 9, 2000

ISBN: 0-671-77612-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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