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RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA

Readers will need to swallow the premise that a police homicide investigator would allow the mother of a victim to tag along...

Former attorney McCreight pens a multilayered legal thriller.

Single mom Kate Baron struggles with the unholy demands that come with being an associate at a high-powered New York City law firm while raising her 15-year-old daughter, Amelia. A child born out of wedlock, Amelia doesn’t know who her father is, and Kate, for some reason that never really becomes clear, fails to share this information with her. While curious about her dad’s identity, Amelia has other, more pressing issues about which to worry. For one thing, she has been tapped for membership in her ritzy private school’s illicit all-girls club, a fact she’s hiding from her best friend, Sylvia, as well as her mother. But when Kate receives a call from the school that she must leave a meeting and come pick up her daughter because good-girl Amelia has been suspended for cheating, Kate’s world completely crumbles. Running late to collect her daughter, Kate doesn’t arrive until pretty, smart, blonde Amelia has fallen from the school roof, a victim of her own failure. Or at least that’s what the police are telling Kate, but she doesn’t believe Amelia killed herself. When she receives an anonymous text message, it prompts her to prove that Amelia was murdered. The author tells the story in flashbacks, alternating between Kate's and Amelia's point of view, leading up to the day Amelia died. Although the expensive and exclusive school comes across as a cauldron out of hell and a bit over-the-top, the book never bogs down and comes to a seamless and unanticipated conclusion.

Readers will need to swallow the premise that a police homicide investigator would allow the mother of a victim to tag along on the investigation and question witnesses, but otherwise, this is a solid debut novel.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-222543-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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ABSOLUTE POWER

The mother of all presidential cover-ups is the centerpiece gimmick in this far-fetched thriller from first-novelist Baldacci, a Washington-based attorney. In the dead of night, while burgling an exurban Virginia mansion, career criminal Luther Whitney is forced to conceal himself in a walk-in closet when Christine Sullivan, the lady of the house, arrives in the bedroom he's ransacking with none other than Alan Richmond, President of the US. Through the one-way mirror, Luther watches the drunken couple engage in a bout of rough sex that gets out of hand, ending only when two Secret Service men respond to the Chief Executive's cries of distress and gun down the letter-opener-wielding Christy. Gloria Russell, Richmond's vaultingly ambitious chief of staff, orders the scene rigged to look like a break-in and departs with the still befuddled President, leaving Christy's corpse to be discovered at another time. Luther makes tracks as well, though not before being spotted on the run by agents from the bodyguard detail. Aware that he's shortened his life expectancy, Luther retains trusted friend Jack Graham, a former public defender, but doesn't tell him the whole story. When Luther's slain before he can be arraigned for Christy's murder, Jack concludes he's the designated fall guy in a major scandal. Meanwhile, little Gloria (together with two Secret Service shooters) hopes to erase all tracks that might lead to the White House. But the late Luther seems to have outsmarted her in advance with recurrent demands for hush money. The body count rises as Gloria's attack dogs and Jack search for the evidence cunning Luther's left to incriminate not only a venal Alan Richmond but his homicidal deputies. The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper climax provides an unsurprising answer to the question of whether a US president can get away with murder. For all its arresting premise, an overblown and tedious tale of capital sins. (Film rights to Castle Rock; Book-of-the-Month selection)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51996-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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