A taut, nail-biting courtroom drama.


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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Ninety percent of a smart, twisty thriller, but the finale just doesn’t work.


What do you do when you find out that the mentor supposedly advancing your career is actually sabotaging it?

Oxford graduate student Tessa Templeton, just about to receive her doctorate, is stunned when an anonymous email warns, “You may want to reconsider asking Christopher Eccles for a recommendation letter in the future.” Attached is a photo of a dismissive letter that has torpedoed her chances of a tenure-track university job despite her outstanding grades and a brilliant dissertation on Apollo and Daphne being considered for publication. Tessa thinks of Chris as a friend as well as her dissertation adviser; he rescued her from the University of Florida and a family of doctors who thought studying classical Latin literature was a ridiculous waste of time. True, she’s been a little uneasy about how personal their relationship is, especially now that he’s separated from his wife and her boyfriend has dumped her because she’s too wrapped up in her work. Now she fears that Chris is scheming to keep her at Oxford in a low-pay, no-future lectureship so she’ll remain under his thumb—which is exactly the case, we learn as the point of view shifts occasionally to Chris in this deftly plotted debut. There’s intrigue and deception enough for a spy novel as Tessa takes off for an archaeological dig in Italy to pursue traces of Marius, an obscure second-century Latin poet whose unusual use of choliambic meter has attracted her interest, repeatedly discouraged by her adviser. Meanwhile, creepy Chris has hacked her email and is busily plotting to further damage her prospects. Events come to a satisfying climax at an Oxford conference at which Chris and Tessa deliver dueling papers, but then the author tacks on a bizarre, gothic denouement that nothing in the development of his two main characters has prepared for. The novel’s subdued but pronounced feminist undertones suddenly morph into distasteful and implausible revenge porn that leaves a nasty aftertaste as the plot is hastily wrapped up.

Ninety percent of a smart, twisty thriller, but the finale just doesn’t work.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-393-54127-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Too much drama at the end detracts from a finely wrought and subtle conundrum.


Ware (In A Dark, Dark Wood, 2015) offers up a classic “paranoid woman” story with a modern twist in this tense, claustrophobic mystery.

Days before departing on a luxury cruise for work, travel journalist Lo Blacklock is the victim of a break-in. Though unharmed, she ends up locked in her own room for several hours before escaping; as a result, she is unable to sleep. By the time she comes onboard the Aurora, Lo is suffering from severe sleep deprivation and possibly even PTSD, so when she hears a big splash from the cabin next door in the middle of the night, “the kind of splash made by a body hitting water,” she can’t prove to security that anything violent has actually occurred. To make matters stranger, there's no record of any passenger traveling in the cabin next to Lo’s, even though Lo herself saw a woman there and even borrowed makeup from her before the first night’s dinner party. Reeling from her own trauma, and faced with proof that she may have been hallucinating, Lo continues to investigate, aided by her ex-boyfriend Ben (who's also writing about the cruise), fighting desperately to find any shred of evidence that she may be right. The cast of characters, their conversations, and the luxurious but confining setting all echo classic Agatha Christie; in fact, the structure of the mystery itself is an old one: a woman insists murder has occurred, everyone else says she’s crazy. But Lo is no wallflower; she is a strong and determined modern heroine who refuses to doubt the evidence of her own instincts. Despite this successful formula, and a whole lot of slowly unraveling tension, the end is somehow unsatisfying. And the newspaper and social media inserts add little depth.

Too much drama at the end detracts from a finely wrought and subtle conundrum.

Pub Date: July 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3293-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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