The secret is out; a teenage sleuth makes a welcome debut on the crime scene.

AUNT CLARA’S SECRETS

In this mystery, an aunt’s deathbed confession compels a high schooler to turn up the heat on a cold case.

Officer Donnie Ray Carr, 26, disappeared without a trace in 1943. Eight years later, “barely seventeen” Gracie Dawson receives shocking news at her Aunt Clara’s hospital deathbed. First, she is told she has a heretofore undisclosed cousin, a little boy. Second, someone named William killed Carr. As to the former, Clara begs, “Find my little boy, Gracie.” As to the latter, all Clara will cryptically say is “Norton Train Station, September 1943.” Gracie’s father happens to be named William; he cheated on her mother, leading to a nasty divorce. But Clara has left everything to Gracie, including her “stupefying secrets,” and so the teen is determined to do right by her. With the help of her boyfriend, Obie Sayer, whose father is the local police chief and who hopes to assume that role someday, she turns amateur sleuth. She visits the Norton Train Station, where Gracie learns somebody left an infant in 1943. Clara is identified as the mother. But who is the father? And is the baby’s paternity connected to Carr’s disappearance? Gracie and Obie’s “after-death meddling” yields a hidden suitcase that contains a birth certificate identifying the illegitimate boy’s father: William Avery Dollarhide, a state senator who’s on “top of the heap” as part of the local foundry empire. McCall reveals this early on, which may frustrate armchair detectives. But this well-written small-town noir is a brisk read that should captivate both YA readers for its plucky teenage hero as well as adults with a penchant for crime stories that revolve around shadowy figures in high places. In this series opener, Gracie is a believable and empathetic character. She is much like Teresa Wright in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Shadow of a Doubt,who discovers, as Gracie puts it, “there’s such a wideness to the world.” Gracie is in over her head but in thrall to the thrill of having been entrusted with her aunt’s confession: “Of course, I don’t really know anything but the idea gives me goosebumps all the same.”

The secret is out; a teenage sleuth makes a welcome debut on the crime scene.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73755-530-8

Page Count: 158

Publisher: JJ Publishers, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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