Enough characters, confrontations, secrets, and subplots to fill the stage of an opera house—and leave spectators from the...

REDEMPTION ROAD

After an absence of five years, Hart finds more to mine in the fertile land of the Southern gothic.

Hart returns brimming with plotlines and melodramatics. For starters, there are three emotionally and physically wounded characters. Front and center stands Elizabeth Black, a detective on the police force in an unnamed North Carolina city. Feisty, irrepressible Elizabeth has been furloughed after an incident in a cellar in which she pumped 18 bullets into two men who had bound and raped an 18-year-old girl named Channing. "Hero Cop or Angel of Death?" ask headlines, as a formal investigation into possibly excessive force looms likely. Elizabeth is also obsessed with Adrian Wall, an ex-cop in prison for the murder of Julia Strange. Black insists he’s innocent; she also suspects she loves him. And so she ignores department orders to stay away from Wall, seeking him out soon after he’s released from prison. Meanwhile, in a vivid scene that opens the book, Julia Strange’s son, Gideon, a 14-year-old whose “thoughts [run] crooked sometimes,” lights out from home and his father, “an empty man,” to shoot Wall the morning he walks free. Elizabeth, Channing, and Gideon are linked by troubled relationships with their parents, and the offsprings’ efforts to surmount the discord becomes a major theme in the book. There are, as well, other pertinent tropes—Wall’s case eventually raises issues of police corruption and prison abuse. Threaded through the steadily paced plot is a series of cross-cuts to the first-person narration of an unidentified man, a lurking bogeyman who moves, unobserved, among the other characters as he kidnaps and tortures several women. His identity is not hard to guess, and the familiarity of his scenes, however chilling, mars the plotting. A protracted action scene resolves the strands of the plot, and a touching epilogue lends a closing note of poignancy.

Enough characters, confrontations, secrets, and subplots to fill the stage of an opera house—and leave spectators from the orchestra to the balcony moved and misty-eyed.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-312-38036-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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