Touching and true descriptions of Zack’s broken family, including a lovely vignette of his retarded brother; the rest is...



Girlfriend problems, workplace problems, deadbeat dad problems, even a cancer scare: The sky is falling on the hapless protagonist of Tropper’s third (The Book of Joe, 2004, etc.).

A very minor earthquake rattles windows in Manhattan, and Zack instinctively reaches out for Tamara before remembering he’s in bed with Hope. The author signals us right off the bat that Tamara is Zack’s soulmate, though it takes 300-plus pages for true love to win out. There are, in fact, good reasons for 32-year-old Zack’s ambivalence. While both women are gorgeous (and feebly differentiated), Tamara is the widow of Zack’s best friend, Rael, who died in a car crash that Zack survived. So he’s now cast in the role of sympathetic friend to Tamara and her small daughter, Sophie, whereas with Hope there are no complications. That’s why the smart, sophisticated Upper East Sider is Zack’s fiancée, and the engagement party is just days away. Zack sees himself as the middleman, unable to turn Hope loose or declare himself to Tamara. In his job, which he hates, he really is a middleman, brokering deals between vendors and manufacturers. Add to the mix Zack’s father, Norm, who shows up after many years’ absence and a bitter divorce from wife Lela. Here again, Zack is ambivalent, raging at his old man’s fecklessness but moved despite himself by Dad’s sentimental warmth. All this, and then Zack rushes to the urologist after seeing blood in his urine. Tropper seems conflicted too. Should he go for bittersweet realism or for laughs? There are lots of Viagra jokes and three slapstick brawls—the last one at the engagement party, when Hope’s father goes ballistic after catching Zack and Tamara smooching. Then Tropper pulls a rabbit out of the hat in the form of an adorable five-year-old, for a shamelessly weepy finale.

Touching and true descriptions of Zack’s broken family, including a lovely vignette of his retarded brother; the rest is fluff.

Pub Date: April 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-33807-4

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2005

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Another success for the publishing phenom.


An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.


An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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