SEASONAL WORK

Clever, well-paced, laced with humor and insight—damn fine short stories.

Playful tales of misdeeds great and small from the prolific mystery author.

Lippman fans will be glad to hear that the first two stories in her second collection of short fiction—after Hardly Knew Her (2008)—feature Tess Monaghan, now-retired private investigator and star of a dozen mystery novels. The first, the title story, is about a long con featuring the wise child of a grifter dad; the second is a very Baltimorean story set in a children's bookstore with an ongoing shoplifting problem. The third story features a couple that insiders will recognize as Tess' parents in the years before she was born. Though Judith Monaghan is "The Everyday Housewife," her powers of observation and interest in the lives of others presage her daughter's talents—as one character points out, "It's a thin line between gossip and espionage." The remaining nine stories take on a sparkling array of everyday cheaters, liars, egotists, and sexist pigs. In "Slow Burner," a perfectly pleasant high school teacher "has been spying on [her husband] for so long it's hard to remember what she might know and what she can't know." But as her students point out during their mythology unit, "Hades is a kidnapper, plain and simple. Why should Persephone be punished for eating a few seeds?...To teenagers, the gods are like adults, taking themselves much too seriously, demanding respect they have not earned, changing the rules as it suits them while torturing the puny mortals in their care." Oof. As the author explains in an interesting afterword, the stories—four of which, she proudly notes, do not a include a dead body—were written between 2007 and 2019 and had to be updated slightly to conform to current standards. Sensitivity, however, only goes so far with a crime novelist. When the pandemic comes along in the last story, "Just One More," it only makes murder more acceptable. "Hundreds of people were dying every day. What was one more body on the pile?"

Clever, well-paced, laced with humor and insight—damn fine short stories.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-300003-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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