It would be nice if the payoff were more closely linked to the amusing setup, but the detection, though often tediously...

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HOLY GHOST

A drolly fraudulent plan to reverse the fortunes of a declining Minnesota town hits a snag in the form of a much more serious spate of felonies.

Wheatfield mayor Wardell Holland, who lost a foot in Afghanistan, sees no reason why he shouldn’t take intellectually and sexually precocious teenager John Jacob Skinner’s advice about having Janet Fischer, Skinner’s frequent bedmate, masquerade as the Blessed Virgin at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The apparently miraculous sightings of the faithful will put Wheatfield back on the map, increase tourism, and juice the local economy, all without hurting a soul. But then a series of shootings outside the church indicate that although souls may be getting saved, bodies are having a tougher time. Iowa visitor Harvey Coates isn’t seriously injured, but Betty Rice, a second visitor, is wounded seriously enough to warrant a call to Virgil Flowers, of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (Deep Freeze, 2017, etc.). Leaving his pregnant girlfriend, Frankie Nobles, back in Mankato, Virgil drives the hour to Wheatfield and finds—nothing: no obvious suspects, no motive, no forensic evidence, not even a good place to get lunch. Looking for clues about the likely weapon, he stumbles on the rotting corpse of Glen Andorra, a farmer whose shooting range drew many local marksmen, and the mystery darkens. Andorra was almost certainly killed by someone who wanted the use of his .223 rifle for some long-distance target practice, but who and why? When the shooter scores a fatal shot on retired health care aide Marge Osborne, Virgil, immediately assuming she’s been the real target from the beginning, narrows his focus, still to no avail. Why would anyone kill such an inoffensive old lady? It must be all about money—but where’s the money?

It would be nice if the payoff were more closely linked to the amusing setup, but the detection, though often tediously routine, carries all the authenticity you’d expect from a pro like Sandford.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1732-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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