A sharply written, suspenseful domestic thriller.



A newlywed discovers her mother-in-law has a dangerous secret agenda.

Victoria Verducci wasn’t looking for love when she traveled to Las Vegas for a five-week training program. She lives in San Diego, where she works at a top investment firm. At the start of the program, she meets the handsome and attentive Brad Reynolds, an employee of the firm’s office in North Florida. A widower, he is raising his 5-year-old son, Andy, with the help of his mother, Madeline. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple elopes in Vegas. Victoria transfers to the Florida office, moves to Brad’s hometown of Jacksonville, and quickly bonds with Andy. Her relationship with Madeline is another matter. Madeline, ever rigid, expects the family to follow her rules: dinner at 6:30 every night and no TV. She continually finds fault with Victoria and her parenting style. Uncomfortable with the tension, Victoria wants to find a new home with Brad and Andy, but warnings from a neighbor and unsettling discoveries about Madeline’s and Brad’s past lead her to wonder how far Madeline is willing to go to maintain control over her son and grandson. Moore’s (Murder at the Country Club, 2018, etc.) latest is a fast-paced, compulsively readable mystery with strong characters and well-drawn settings. Victoria is a sympathetic lead, and Madeline is a cunning and elusive antagonist—a woman whose icy perfection and strict adherence to a complex set of rules mask subtle attempts to undermine Victoria’s marriage and relationship with her new stepson. While the novel is set in sunny Florida, the family drama at the heart of the story is worthy of a gothic novel, and the Reynolds family home is an important part of the setting. Victoria is expecting an open and airy beach house; instead, she finds a dark, formal home with ornate furnishings. This home plays a key role in many of the story’s most suspenseful scenes, and Moore’s keenly observed descriptions (“With these furnishings, if you weren’t looking out the window, you would never guess you were at the beach”) add to the fun.  

A sharply written, suspenseful domestic thriller.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-976080-60-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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