A taut, nail-biting courtroom drama.

A GOOD MOTHER

In journalist and law professor Bazelon’s tense fiction debut, a young woman goes on trial for the stabbing murder of her soldier husband.

Hard-charging Los Angeles federal public defense attorney Abby Rosenberg is due to give birth any time now, but her new case already has her hooked. Nineteen-year-old Luz Rivera Hollis was taken into custody at a U.S. Air Force base in Germany and sent back to LA after supposedly stabbing her husband, Sgt. Travis Hollis, to death. Luz has been charged with first-degree murder, but Abby isn’t quite sure that her client grasps the gravity of the situation; all she cares about is getting to be with her 2-month-old daughter, Cristina. Abby manages to get the judge to set bail and release Luz to her grandmother, and then she's off on maternity leave. Abby’s new baby son is a delight, but she chafes at the monotony of sleepless nights and feedings, and she angers her partner, Nic Mulvaney, by announcing that she wants to go back to work early. She’s not about to hand over control of Luz’s case to Will Ellet, a wet-behind-the-ears former JAG attorney with 19th-century views on womanhood, but she does have to partner with him, and he makes it crystal clear what he thinks of her decision to come back early. As Abby and Will prepare the enigmatic Luz for trial, their personal lives begin to fall apart. Bazelon knows her way around a courtroom and unfolds one surprise after another while deftly exploring motherhood and the often crushing expectations that come with raising a family, not to mention the condescending treatment of women in a largely male workplace. Abby sees herself in Luz, who is willing to do anything to protect her little girl, but was her action self-defense or coldblooded murder?

A taut, nail-biting courtroom drama.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-335-91609-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A return to form for this popular author.

HOME BEFORE DARK

Spectral danger and human evil stalk Sager’s latest stalwart heroine.

When Maggie Holt’s father, Ewan, dies, she’s shocked to discover that she has inherited Baneberry Hall. Ewan made his name as a writer—and ruined her life—by writing a supposedly nonfiction account of the terrors their family endured while living in this grand Victorian mansion with a dark history. Determined to find out the truth behind her father’s sensational bestseller, Maggie returns to Baneberry Hall. Horror aficionados will feel quite cozy as they settle into this narrative, and Sager’s fans will recognize a familiar formula. As he has in his previous three novels, the author makes contemporary fiction out of time-honored tropes. Final Girls (2017) remains his most fresh and inventive novel, but his latest is significantly more satisfying than the two novels that followed. Interspersing Maggie’s story with chapters from her father’s book, Sager delivers something like a cross between The Haunting of Hill House and The Amityville Horror with a tough female protagonist. Ewan and Maggie both behave with the dogged idiocy common among people who buy haunted houses, but doubt about the veracity of Ewan’s book and Maggie’s desperate need to understand her own past make them both compelling characters. The ghosts and poltergeist activity Sager conjures are truly chilling, and he does a masterful job of keeping readers guessing until the very end. As was the case with past novels, though—especially The Last Time I Lied (2018)—Sager sets his story in the present while he seems to be writing about the past. For example, when the Holt family moved into Baneberry Hall in 1995 or thereabouts, Ewan—a professional journalist—worked on a typewriter. When Maggie wants to learn more about the history of Baneberry Hall, she drives to the town library instead of going online. Sager is already asking readers to suspend disbelief, and he makes that more difficult because it’s such a jolt when a character pulls out an iPhone or mentions eBay. This is, however, a minor complaint about what is a generally entertaining work of psychological suspense.

A return to form for this popular author.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4517-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A young woman’s foray into online dating becomes a heartbreak—and then a deadly nightmare.

LAST GIRL GHOSTED

A psychological thriller spins a dark tale of hidden identities and buried pasts.

Wren Greenwood is skeptical about looking for love, or even for a hookup, online. But one of her best friends, vivacious Jax, presses her. At 28, Wren is totally focused on her job writing and podcasting an advice column called “Dear Birdie.” She’s so intent on helping her audience with their personal lives she barely has one of her own. So Wren signs up for a Tinder-like service called Torch, and there he is. Adam Harper, broodingly attractive, enigmatic—and quoting Rilke in his profile. Rilke fan Wren falls for him as soon as they meet, and for a few months it’s bliss. Then he vanishes. She’s hurt and bewildered—and then she’s frightened, as what she thought she knew about his identity seems to be an opaque mask. But why is she getting strange texts from unknown numbers, catching glimpses of a tall figure watching her from a distance? Then a private detective named Bailey Kirk starts asking questions about another woman who connected online with a man who looks like Adam—a woman who has disappeared. Unger crafts Wren’s first-person narration skillfully, creating an engaging, witty character and drawing the reader into her life and only slowly revealing that she has secrets of her own. Almost no one in this thriller is who they appear to be. Unger always ratchets up the tension, and the revelations, in her final chapters. But in this book, she spins like Simone Biles—and sticks the landing.

A young woman’s foray into online dating becomes a heartbreak—and then a deadly nightmare.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-778-31104-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Park Row Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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