A sometimes-clinical narrative relays a smart, unquestionably regaling tale.


Calm Seas Stormy Ship

The crew of a Malaysian crude oil tanker bound for India is held hostage by armed men demanding a hefty ransom in Isaiah’s debut thriller.

When a group of men sporting Uzis storms the Green Endeavour, her 18 crew members, including Capt. John Lopez, become their hostages. The hijackers are more organized than typical pirates since it’s clear that they’ve specifically chosen the vessel for its deep-pocketed owner—multibillion-dollar Global Shipping. Satu, the leader of the armed men, uses Capt. Lopez to communicate with the company and demand that $25 million be delivered in three days—or else there will be consequences. While Global Shipping president and CEO Vincent Lee decides whether to pay the hijackers, Malaysia’s Ministry of Defense assembles an elite team to prep a possible rescue mission. But they must be cautious: when Global Shipping violates the baddies’ instructions not to contact the vessel (and instead await further direction), Satu confirms the severity of the situation by executing a crew member. The novel sometimes has the feel of a report, delivering the narrative in an unadorned style with minimal dialogue. It’s shocking, for example, that Global Shipping seems more worried about the legal ramifications from the crew’s families if anyone is killed, while First Bank, which is handling the ransom payment, sees the incident as a way to promote the bank. Isaiah does take time to focus on human interaction. In one of the best scenes, Satu forces Capt. Lopez to choose which crew member will be killed. Though much of the novel is spent on the Green Endeavour, there’s also a good deal of perspective from outside the ship. As a consequence, readers don’t always know what the hijackers are planning, which leads to a superb twist and a delightfully memorable ending when the ransom drop doesn’t go quite as expected. Those unfamiliar with nautical terms, however, might be confused by the abundant seafaring jargon.

A sometimes-clinical narrative relays a smart, unquestionably regaling tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1502323712

Page Count: 316

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2015

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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.


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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