A shiny bauble of mayhem sure to please Grisham’s many fans.

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THE JUDGE'S LIST

A vigorous thriller that gets out of the courtroom and into the swampier corners of the Redneck Riviera.

Judges are supposed to dispense justice, not administer the death penalty on their own initiative. That’s just what Lacy Stoltz is up against, though. The protagonist of The Whistler (2016), she’s a jaded investigator for Florida’s Board on Judicial Conduct, which, thanks to budget cuts, is dying on the vine, “a leaderless mess.” Lacy acts on complaints, and she receives a doozy from a well-put-together Black woman who introduces herself as Margie, though she admits that's an alias. Her father, a much-respected professor of constitutional law, had retired to South Carolina and was murdered by an unknown killer. Now the coldest of cold cases, his death is a link in an evidentiary chain that only Margie—her real name is Jeri Crosby—has managed to construct. The murderer: a circuit judge sitting in Pensacola, biding his time until he can cross off the next victim on a deeply personal to-be-avenged list. Judge Bannick has more money than God and more technological goodies than Lex Luthor, but though a psycho, he puts on a good public face. Lacy is resistant at first, given that her normal brief is to investigate complaints about drunkenness or corruption, but she allows that “six murders would certainly liven up her caseload.” And then some. We don’t meet the killing judge until halfway through the book, and then he’s a model of clinical badness in a game of cat and mouse that ends in—well, a rather frothily grisly moment. As with all his procedurals, Grisham injects professorial notes on crime and justice into the proceedings: “This country averages fifteen thousand murders a year. One-third are never solved….Since 1960, over two hundred thousand.” And as ever, with one body unaccounted for, he leaves the door ajar to admit a sequel—one that, with luck, will team Lacy with the much more energetic Jeri to enact some justice of their own.

A shiny bauble of mayhem sure to please Grisham’s many fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54602-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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