After spinning its wheels in its first half, Hart’s novel becomes a chilling tale that’s hard to shake.

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THE HUSH

Evil deeds from the past haunt the present in a darkly bewitched Southern swamp.

Hart’s ambitious, uneven, but ultimately provocative thriller initially seems set up along conventional narrative lines. In particular, the tale’s opening events suggest a legal thriller centered on two characters, Johnny Merrimon and Jack Cross, returning from the author’s earlier book The Last Child (2009). Now 23, Johnny faces losing the Hush, the 6,000 acre, half swamp, half dry land expanse in Raven County, North Carolina, that he’d inherited five years ago. Cree Freemantle, a young woman whose ancestors lived on the parcel for hundreds of years, is challenging his right to the property. The impecunious Johnny, who lives on his land, needs legal help he can’t afford. His old friend Jack, who works at a law firm, tries but fails to arrange pro bono counsel. Wealthy William Boyd, who’s offered Johnny $30 million for the land, wants Jack’s firm to help him persuade Johnny to sell, offering them a lucrative deal to handle any work on the lawsuit over the land's ownership. But then Boyd is the victim of a gruesome, mysterious death in the Hush, and Johnny becomes a suspect in the case. Hart now goes after more than a story of pursuit. From the outset, his characters express a sense that the Hush is a strange place occupied by unseen, perhaps even ghostly forces. Alas, the many references to secrets and strange occurrences in the place may tire more than they intrigue the reader, who will readily agree when, near the end, a character muses that "There is no normal in the Hush. There is only story and magic." Hart links the magic of the place to fact, flashing back to vividly written depictions of the arrival of slaves in the Colonies. At the expense of characterization—Johnny, in particular, never emerges as a fully drawn protagonist, and secondary characters verge on stereotypes—Hart vigorously renders this tragic history and its aftermath as a nightmare of violent, supernatural forces.

After spinning its wheels in its first half, Hart’s novel becomes a chilling tale that’s hard to shake.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-01230-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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