A thought-provoking volume about how a wrong choice can have huge repercussions.

THE MERCIFUL

Sealy, the author of The Edge of America (2019), examines a fatal hit-and-run in suburban South Carolina from multiple points of view in this novel.

Samantha James, a college student home for the summer, is struck and killed while riding her bicycle home from her restaurant job in the town of Overlook. Daniel Hayward, a local computer salesman, becomes a person of interest in the crime, and his former college roommate, Jay, attempts to square this heinous act with the kindhearted person he remembers. The prosecutor in the case, Claire Fields, desperately needs a win after a widely reported ethical lapse, and Henry Somerville, an old-money defense attorney, is trying to come back from a social media scandal. At the time of the accident, Daniel was bored with his life and contemplating an affair with a client; Francine, his wife, takes the incident as a sign that she should abandon a loveless marriage. Charlie Gibbs, Samantha’s boyfriend, is a car dealer who gets caught up in a pyramid scheme, and it’s revealed that Samantha was ready to break up with him when she died. The case goes before Judge Kenneth Rhodes, a pioneering Black jurist in the Southern state. Sealy’s clever approach is reminiscent of the parable of blind men describing an elephant, as each character brings not only his or her own perspective but also adds crucial details to the chronology of events. The varying viewpoints also serve to flesh out the relationships among the characters and clarify their motivations. Despite the many players and multiple time shifts, Sealy keeps the narrative running smoothly throughout. His characters are flawed, as is the American justice system as he portrays it. There are no heroes or villains—just ordinary people swept up in a tragic situation; there’s also no uplifting Hollywood ending but rather a truthful conclusion built on compromise.

A thought-provoking volume about how a wrong choice can have huge repercussions.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-950182-07-7

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Haywire Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

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NORTHERN SPY

Berry delivers a taut and compassionate thriller as young mother Tessa is drawn into working as a double agent in the Irish Republican Army to protect her sister.

It's been years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but tensions in Northern Ireland remain at a constant simmer. Tessa moves through the simple motions of her life: taking care of her infant son, working at the BBC News Belfast bureau, spending time with her mother and sister. The physical isolation and beauty of her home village hint at the possibility of a world in which one doesn’t always have to be alert for terrorists; Tessa is old enough, however, to remember the Troubles, and she fears that the IRA will never truly surrender. Still, it comes as a shock at work one day when she sees a video of her sister participating in an IRA robbery. But even more shocking is the revelation that comes from Marian herself once she is able to reach out to Tessa: She's been a member of the IRA for seven years, drawn in by their talk about economic inequality, and has recently begun feeding information to MI5 in order to create space for peace talks. After a bomb she created for the IRA failed to blow up, though, she's under constant surveillance and can no longer meet with her British handler. And so Tessa joins her sister as a double agent: She's accepted by Marian’s crew and asked to do increasingly dangerous tasks for the IRA, which she then reports to her handler. Days of espionage are balanced by quiet moments with her son as Tessa comes to realize that putting herself in danger is justified, even necessary, if she wants him to grow up in a safer Ireland. Berry's use of short chapters, often divided into several smaller episodes, is particularly effective in reflecting Tessa's fragmented sense of loyalty and safety. This is not a book of action, though there is plenty, but instead a greater reflection on personal choice and consequence.

A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522499-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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