THE BUTCHER'S THEATER

Kellerman's mysteries featuring psychologist-sleuth Alex Delaware (When the Bough Breaks, etc.), though intelligently written and thickly textured with realistic illness/therapy detail, have been marred by slow pacing, overwrought effects, and disappointing windups. This new novel—a wildly overblown (640 pp.) police-vs.-psycho thriller set in Jerusalem—is even more of a mixed bag, with page-by-page strengths lavished on a humdrum formula production. A 15-year-old Arab girl is found murdered, gruesomely mutilated and bizarrely laid out, in a Mount Scopus ravine. So Inspector Daniel Sharavi—Yemenite Jew, scarred war-veteran, warm family man—assembles a special cop-team: acerbic old-pro Nahum; part-Chinese muscleman Yosef; Daoud, a bias-sensitive Arab; brash rookie Avi, a flashy ladies' man. And fairly soon the investigating cops are convinced that the girl, a runaway from an oppressive old-world family, was murdered by her shady boyfriend—who was in turn killed by the girl's vengeful, deformed brother. Then, however, a second woman—a Tripoli-born prostitute and drug-addict—is found dead in a forest, identically savaged, obviously victim #2 of a maniac serial-killer. (The reader has known this all along, thanks to periodic close-ups, lurid and shrill, of the nameless psycho.) A third victim is also young, female, Arab—leading to heightened ethnic tensions, which are exacerbated by an unscrupulous newsman. Sharavi, therefore, goes after both sex offenders and rabble-rousers: among the transparent red herrings are a Kahane-like rabbi/racist, an Hasidic child-molester, and a creepy monk. But, with help from the FBI, the Jerusalem cops eventually close in on the real psycho—who, true to genre-cliche (cf., among scores of others, Thomas Boyle's recent PostMortem Effects), snatches Sharavi's small daughter during the chase/showdown finale. Despite graphic swatches of psychosexual case-history, Kellerman's killer—a foulmouthed, masturbating amalgam of hatreds ("Don't move, kikefuck")—remains utterly unconvincing. The treatment of Israel's internal Arab/Jewish conflict, though timely, is annoyingly superficial; the assorted character-touches—like Sharavi's Yemenite back. ground—are intriguing yet ultimately disappointing, as it becomes clear that a thin, derivative scenario is being mechanically padded out to Big-Book dimensions. So, while there's enough solid professionalism here to fill a 300-page police-procedural, at more than double that length this sags and flattens—offering neither the focused, atmospheric suspense of Gorky Park and Pattern Crimes nor the chilling intensity of such other psychomanhunts as Red Dragon and Nightbloom.

Pub Date: March 22, 1988

ISBN: 0345460677

Page Count: 746

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988

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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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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