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THE BOYS FROM BILOXI

Not vintage Grisham but still a worthy yarn.

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Friends turn foes in this Mississippi mix of courtroom and crime.

In 1960, 12-year-olds Keith Rudy and Hugh Malco are Little League fast-balling all stars and great friends in the Gulf Coast city of Biloxi, Mississippi. They’d love to make it to the big leagues one day, but alas, this story isn’t Field of Dreams. The lads’ lives diverge dramatically: Keith studies hard at Ole Miss, becomes an attorney, and sets up a law practice, while Hugh thrives in a seedy underworld of strip joints, honky-tonks, prostitution, and “unchecked vice” along “the poor man’s Riviera.” The Category 5 Hurricane Camille flattens Biloxi in 1969 and gives Keith many clients from cheated insurance policyholders. Unfortunately, Camille doesn’t clean up the local underworld so much as rearrange it. So Keith decides to run for district attorney and put criminals behind bars. At first, corrupt county sheriff Fats Bowman isn’t worried. “Need I remind you,” he tells his gang, “that the graveyard is full of politicians who promised to clean up the Coast?” But he and Hugh soon feel the heat from Keith, and they fight back hard. Plenty of murders stoke the story’s engine, naturally leading to courthouse scenes where the author excels. But how far will Hugh Malco go to keep Biloxi dirty and profitable? He wouldn’t try to hurt his old pal, would he? This is a multigenerational tale also starring Keith’s and Hugh’s fathers, Jesse and Lance. Perhaps because the novel spans decades, a lot of material feels like summary—readers quickly learn that many residents are of Croatian descent, and there are barely enough mentions of Black people to acknowledge their existence. The interpersonal dynamics make the story, because attentive readers will suss where the plot is going from a country mile away. For one thing, it’s a straight line save for one humongous surprise. But the author is always an engaging storyteller even when he could add another twist or two.

Not vintage Grisham but still a worthy yarn.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54892-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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