Vigilante justice leads to something more complex in this New England–accented novel about a multifaceted reporter.

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The Dandy Vigilante

A Boston reporter finds himself in the middle of a murder case after scuffling with street punks in Daley’s (South Pacific Survivor: In Samoa, 2009) latest thriller.

Newsman Dax Grantham hopes to move to the investigative beat and tries to hone his skills by trailing his psychologist wife, Debbie, while he’s dressed as an old man, for practice. He’s sidetracked, however, when thugs accost an old woman and his martial arts training enables him to step in. An editor who learns of the incident asks him to cover the story, but Dax dodges assignments relating to the crime. What’s worse, his trailing of Debbie has made him suspect that she might be having an affair, as she and the mayor’s chief of staff, Bradley Swanson, have met on several occasions. When Bradley is found murdered, police find evidence against Debbie and arrest her, so Dax initiates his own investigation into the crime. Unfortunately, he’s tied to the victim, having confronted him about Debbie, and authorities are looking at Dax not only as the vigilante, but as a murder suspect. Despite the author’s playful title, the story isn’t really about Dax as a crime fighter à la Batman, whose name, along with those of other comic-book heroes, turns up frequently. The bulk of the suspense derives, and proficiently so, from Debbie. Dax begins investigating to exonerate his wife, a woman he never fully trusts and often surmises is either setting him up or possibly pointing the evidence in his direction. But he isn’t a squeaky-clean hero; his few fights with criminals occur not when he’s doing his job as a reporter, but by pure happenstance, typically when he’s out spying on Debbie. The gleefully bemusing Dax wears many hats, some good, such as working as an amateur detective, and others considerably less flattering; his obsessively tracking Debbie, without her knowledge, borders on stalking. A lawyer in the Boston area, Daley deepens the mystery by occasionally dropping hints about his protagonist’s back story, which includes an incident years earlier that caused his wife to distrust him and a traumatic high school experience that ultimately comes to light.

Vigilante justice leads to something more complex in this New England–accented novel about a multifaceted reporter.

Pub Date: March 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937536640

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2014

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A twisty slow burner by an author at the top of her game.

THE LOST MAN

A timely novel set in the furthest reaches of Australia by the author of The Dry (2017) and Force of Nature (2018).

The three Bright brothers are the overseers of 3,500 square kilometers of land in Queensland, with hours between each of their homes. It’s a vast, unforgiving environment, and no one ever goes far without a full complement of supplies. When 40-year-old Cameron sets out on his own, ostensibly to fix a repeater mast, he never comes home. His body is eventually spotted, via helicopter, curled up by the stockman’s grave, the source of plentiful, and persistent, local ghost stories. Cam’s older brother, Nathan, and their baby brother, Bub, are as perplexed as the cop who’s come all the way from Brisbane to investigate. What was Cam doing by the grave, and what was his Land Cruiser doing nine kilometers away, still fully stocked with supplies, with the keys left neatly on the front seat? The Brights' mother, Liz, is devastated, and Cam has also left behind his wife, Ilse, and two young daughters, Sophie and Lo. They’re pragmatic folks, though, and there’s a funeral to be planned, plus Christmas is just around the corner. Everyone seems to assume that Cam took his own life, but Nathan isn’t so sure, and there’s a strange dynamic in Cam's home that he can’t put his finger on. Cam had been acting strangely in the weeks before his death, too. But Nathan’s got his own problems. He’s eager to reconnect with his teenage son, Xander, who's visiting from Brisbane, and he has a complicated history with Ilse. In the days leading up to the funeral, family secrets begin to surface, and Nathan realizes he never really knew his brother at all. Harper’s masterful narrative places readers right in the middle of a desolate landscape that’s almost as alien as the moon’s surface, where the effects of long-term isolation are always a concern. The mystery of Cam’s death is at the dark heart of an unfolding family drama that will leave readers reeling, and the final reveal is a heartbreaker.

A twisty slow burner by an author at the top of her game.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-10568-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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