DEATH QUALIFIED

A MYSTERY OF CHAOS

Another heaven-storming hybrid of mystery and fantasy from veteran Wilhelm (Cambio Bay; Sweet, Sweet Poison, etc.): What's the link between a powerful mind-altering computer program and two murders in the Oregon woods? Seven years ago Lucas Kendricks deserted his young family and took off for mathematician Emil Frobisher's research project in Colorado. Now, after one day's warning—he ordered a monster computer to be sent to his old address—he's back, and then, moments later, he's dead, along with a young woman he gave a lift to only a few hours before. The police think Lucas raped and killed the hitchhiker and was shot down by his tiny, sharpshooting wife Nell; but defense attorney Barbara Holloway, needled by her estranged father into coming back to him and the law (she'd been on the run from both for five years after a dose of professional disillusionment) is convinced that Lucas's death had more to do with the mysterious men who followed him from Colorado. Taking on her share of clichÇs—alliance with her curmudgeonly, reluctantly supportive father; opposition from prosecutor/former lover Tony DeAngelo; romance with mathematician Mike Dinesen (whom she's called in to make sense of the connections Lucas had with Frobisher, psychiatrist Ruth Brandywine, and computer expert Walter Schumaker)—Barbara delves into those blank seven years, and comes up with answers that are even scarier than the questions: a set of the most user-unfriendly computer disks in literature. What does all this have to do with Lucas's murder? Not enough, unfortunately: the mixture of metaphysical fractals, courtroom drama, psychological thrills, and formal detection never quite jells. But the audacious scope of Wilhelm's cosmic riddling may spoil you for mysteries that merely ask whodunit.

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-05853-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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