A well-plotted tale about family secrets with a plethora of suspense and intrigue.


Death by Revelation


A writer’s obsession leads to revenge in this debut mystery novel.

Bella Marx, a literature professor–turned–romance writer, pays an overdue visit to her estranged cousin, Katy, only to discover her dead in an apparent suicide. Katy struggled with mental illness, but Bella knows something is wrong, suspecting that the suicide may have been staged to coincide with her visit. She recovers a manuscript from her cousin’s derelict apartment and a short story about “a deranged matricide” that’s a haunting revision of one Bella and Katy composed years ago (“As undergraduates, Katy and I were zealous political moralists. Our story, if it had any purpose at all, was intended to illuminate social evils”). A series of subtle clues leads Bella on a hunt for answers to her questions surrounding Katy’s death. References to wolves, lost springs, and a darkness found in the margins of San Francisco’s long history take Bella to a modern-day boardinghouse and one step closer to the person who was terrorizing Katy. As Bella searches for the connection, consumed with finding answers, she must wade through her own family’s bleak history, delving into her alcoholic father’s past and digging into a hidden annuity that hints at something evil. Wood offers an engaging tale of fixation, retribution, and family riddles. She deftly weaves together a layered mystery, starting with a suicide that leads to missing manuscripts, mysterious packages, and several tragic deaths. Her prose is occasionally overworked, which results in some awkward phrasing such as “that she was perceptive I had seen at once when I met her for the first time.” Yet there are beautiful passages and moments of great insight: “I always feel apologetic when I talk to you about yourself. It seems like presuming.” In a quirky and arresting cast, the moody ocean, shadowy hills, and fickle weather of California make the setting one of Wood’s best supporting characters. Gloomy mornings and punishing rains reflect the heaviness found in much of the narrative. The gripping mystery’s reveal is handled splendidly, following a delicate dance of prodding questions and half answers. It provides closure without a clichéd fairy-tale ending, underscoring the reality of a world that encompasses grayness and moral ambiguity.

A well-plotted tale about family secrets with a plethora of suspense and intrigue.

Pub Date: July 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-615-91639-2

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Sequoia Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.


Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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