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THE WRITING RETREAT

A perfect winter night's haunting.

Five writers, four weeks, and a $1 million book deal for the lucky winner. Unless they disappear first….

Having just turned 30, Alex has to face up to some hard truths: She hates her job; she’s been miserable since breaking up with her best friend; and she’s mired in writer’s block, which makes it pretty hard to be discovered and published. Then, a call from the blue: A writer friend has finagled her a space at an elite writers retreat at the estate of the mysterious, glamorous novelist Roza Vallo. From the very first night at Blackbriar, though, it’s clear that this is no warm and fuzzy workshop, and Roza is no gentle mentor. Each writer must craft a proposal for a full-length novel, then crank out 3,000 words a day to be critiqued. Despite the trappings of luxury—food and wine and an unparalleled library—there’s no ignoring the fact that the writers are trapped; there’s no Wi-Fi or cell service to be found. For Alex, the sense of disquiet grows as her research deepens; with Roza’s urging, she has decided to write a novel about the original inhabitants of the house, a wealthy tycoon and his waitress-turned-medium wife who were both found dead after the wife apparently channeled a demoness named Lamia. When one of the other writers disappears, Alex can’t help but wonder whether occult history is repeating itself. Or is there a much more sinister (and human) plot behind this writing retreat? Despite Alex’s somewhat whiny nature, the book's pacing—a slow roll of dread and horror, especially in the first half—is exceptional. Bartz hits all the gothic highlights, but, far from feeling stale, they work.

A perfect winter night's haunting.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-9821-9945-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DEVLINS

As an adjunct member says, “You’re not a family, you’re a force.” Exactly, though not in the way you’d expect.

The ne’er-do-well son of a successful Irish American family gets dragged into criminal complications that suggest the rest of the Devlins aren’t exactly the upstanding citizens they appear.

The first 35 years in the life of Thomas “TJ” Devlin have been one disappointment after another to his parents, lawyers who founded a prosperous insurance and reinsurance firm, and his more successful siblings, John and Gabby. A longtime alcoholic who’s been unemployable ever since he did time for an incident involving his ex-girlfriend Carrie’s then 2-year-old daughter, TJ is nominally an investigator for Devlin & Devlin, but everyone knows the post is a sinecure. Things change dramatically when golden-boy John tells TJ that he just killed Neil Lemaire, an accountant for D&D client Runstan Electronics. Their speedy return to the murder scene reveals no corpse, so the brothers breathe easier—until Lemaire turns up shot to death in his car. John’s way of avoiding anything that might jeopardize his status as heir apparent to D&D is to throw TJ under the bus, blaming him for everything John himself has done and adding that you can’t trust anything his brother has said since he’s fallen off the wagon. TJ, who’s maintained his sobriety a day at a time for nearly two years, feels outraged, but neither the police investigating the murder nor his nearest and dearest care about his feelings. Forget the forgettable mystery, whose solution will leave you shrugging instead of gasping, and focus on the circular firing squad of the Devlins, and you’ll have a much better time than TJ.

As an adjunct member says, “You’re not a family, you’re a force.” Exactly, though not in the way you’d expect.

Pub Date: March 26, 2024

ISBN: 9780525539704

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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THREE-INCH TEETH

A tale that’s hard to believe but easy to swallow in a single gulp.

A bear is hunting prey in Wyoming’s Bighorns. And not just any bear.

It’s bad enough that Clay Hutmacher, who manages the Double Diamond Ranch, has lost his son, Clay Jr., to a vicious attack by a grizzly bear. What’s much worse is that Clay Jr.—who’d been about to pop the question to game warden Joe Pickett’s daughter, Sheridan—is only the first of the victims over an exceptionally broad geographical area. Marshal Marvin Bertignolli is clawed and bitten to death over in Hanna. Sgt. Ryan Winner is found bleeding out north of Rawlins. Former Twelve Sleep County prosecutor Dulcie Schalk, one of two survivors of an ambush, doesn’t survive her final encounter. The four experts chosen to kill the grizzly rope Joe into their expedition, but since their quarry keeps turning up far from the last sighting, the most meaningful confrontation the Predator Attack Team has is with a pair of Mama Bears, animal rights activists who demand due process for Tisiphone, as they’ve dubbed the presumed killer. Box, who’s far too canny to leave Tisiphone alone on center stage, follows Joe’s old antagonist Dallas Cates as the ex–rodeo star is released from prison and embarks on his revenge tour, which takes him to Lee Ogburn-Russell, an inventor whose life Dallas saved, and Axel Soledad, a correspondent who shares so many enemies with Dallas that he suggests they go after them together. Franchise fans will appreciate new details about Joe’s complicated family, the obligatory high-country landscapes, and yet another corrupt law enforcer.

A tale that’s hard to believe but easy to swallow in a single gulp.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2024

ISBN: 9780593331347

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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