Preserves its Christian sensibilities without failing to entertain as a thriller.

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THE GOOD SPY WIFE

A CHRISTIAN SPY NOVEL

In Allcut’s debut Christian-themed thriller, a widow believes that her late husband, an FBI agent near retirement, has faked his death, possibly for a Special Forces operation.

Bootsie Martini refuses to accept the death of her husband, Gunter, whose boat exploded during a 1987 hurricane in South Carolina but whose body was never found. She thinks the former spy is still alive, but the cops seem certain that Bootsie had something to do with Gunter’s disappearance. Her fingerprints were on gas cans that she filled for the boat, and she failed a polygraph. Bootsie finally gets confirmation on Gunter’s fate when he calls to tell her to make her way to the Soviet Union, where his life may be in danger—for real, this time. The spy novel devotes few pages to actual espionage, opting instead, as the title says, to focus on the spy’s wife. In the first half, Bootsie contends with the cops’ suspicions, while in the second, Bootsie and Gunter reunite in the Soviet Union. The KGB’s distrust of Gunter (supposedly its double agent) and the couple’s attempt to flee the country drive suspense. Christian ideals such as marriage are highlighted: Bootsie questions whether Gunter puts his job before her but is determined to stay with the man she loves. She prays often and avoids cursing. Even readers who aren’t Christian may appreciate Bootsie’s prayers, which become her solace, since she’s mostly alone. Her two daughters have their own lives and families; she’s wary of her friend Bevin’s obvious attraction to Gunter; and small-town gossip has essentially deemed her a murderer. The book does falter with a timeline that’s a bit jumbled: There’s mention of a DVD prior to the format’s existence and an October date given for an event is noted as May in later pages. But Allcut maintains the intrigue—someone follows Bootsie while she’s still in the U.S.; a shady neighbor may be a Russian spy; there’s a plot to assassinate the president—all the way until the shocking ending, which, if another book is in the works, can pass for a cliffhanger.

Preserves its Christian sensibilities without failing to entertain as a thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491845677

Page Count: 252

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2014

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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THE BOY FROM THE WOODS

Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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