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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Eerie atmosphere isn’t enough to overcome an unsatisfying plot and sometimes-exasperating protagonist.

THE MAIDENS

A blend of psychological mystery and gothic thriller puts a psychotherapist in pursuit of a serial killer on the campus of Cambridge University.

The author’s second novel features a psychotherapist as its main character, as did his 2019 debut, The Silent Patient (whose main character makes an appearance here). This book’s protagonist is Mariana, who has a busy practice in London specializing in group therapy. At 36, she’s a widow, reeling from the drowning a year before of her beloved husband, Sebastian. She’s galvanized out of her fog by a call from her niece, Zoe, who was raised by Mariana and Sebastian after her parents died. Zoe is now studying at Cambridge, where Mariana and Sebastian met and courted. Zoe has terrible news: Her close friend Tara has been murdered, savagely stabbed and dumped in a wood. Mariana heads for Cambridge and, when the police arrest someone she thinks is innocent, starts her own investigation. She zeroes in on Edward Fosca, a handsome, charismatic classics professor who has a cultlike following of beautiful female students (which included Tara) called the Maidens, a reference to the cult of Eleusis in ancient Greece, whose followers worshipped Demeter and Persephone. Suspicious characters seem to be around every ivy-covered corner of the campus, though—an audacious young man Mariana meets on the train, one of her patients who has turned stalker, a porter at one of the college’s venerable houses, even the surly police inspector. The book gets off to a slow start, front-loaded with backstories and a Cambridge travelogue, but then picks up the pace and piles up the bodies. With its ambience of ritualistic murders, ancient myths, and the venerable college, the story is a gothic thriller despite its contemporary setting. That makes Mariana tough to get on board with—she behaves less like a modern professional woman than a 19th-century gothic heroine, a clueless woman who can be counted on in any situation to make the worst possible choice. And the book’s ending, while surprising, also feels unearned, like a bolt from the blue hurled by some demigod.

Eerie atmosphere isn’t enough to overcome an unsatisfying plot and sometimes-exasperating protagonist.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30445-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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