This tale offers a promising foundation for a series featuring a strong, complicated investigator.

INDELIBLE

A battered ex-cop seeking a new life runs smack into his past in this philosophical thriller.

In this series opener, Buchanan introduces readers to former cop Sean “Mick” McPherson, still recovering from a past trauma. His partner, Sam, was killed by a sniper in an ambush. But Sam may have been the lucky one. In the car crash following the death of Sam, who was driving, Mick was left temporarily paralyzed. While he regained mobility, he has been wracked by survivor’s guilt for the past five years. That’s why he retired and has been working at the Pines & Quill writers retreat, run by his older sister, Libby, and her husband, Niall MacCullough. This month’s group of writers includes psychic Cynthia Winters; bitter, divorced Fran Davies; wheelchair-bound potter Emma Benton; and standoffish Jason Hughes. Something changes in Mick when he meets Emma. She finds herself falling for him as well. But Mick doesn’t realize that he has a tie to Jason, a serial killer who comes to the retreat with revenge in mind. Cynthia picks up on Jason’s malice; fearing her abilities, he decides to kill her. But resident dog Hemingway comes to her rescue. After narrowly avoiding death, Jason decides to abduct Emma and use her as bait to lure Mick. Then it’s a race for Mick to rescue Emma in time. Buchanan, a retired holistic health practitioner and life coach and the author of The Business of Being (2018), has made a strong transition from nonfiction to fiction with her first novel. Yes, her former jobs leak through with mentions of therapeutic methods. But that truly doesn’t affect the narrative. The author has created a stable of likable, well-rounded characters, starting with the damaged Mick. Especially winning is Irish wolfhound Hemingway, who speaks volumes without saying a word. Jason is an unhinged, single-dimensional loon, to use a nonpsychological term, and is easy to root against. Buchanan’s narrative is well paced, flying right along. But the book ends abruptly, with the author hanging on to certain elements, such as Jason’s accomplice, for use in the series’ sequel. This leaves the volume with a slightly unfinished feel. Still, overall, the author has delivered an exciting beginning to an intriguing series.

This tale offers a promising foundation for a series featuring a strong, complicated investigator.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68463-071-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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As one of Whitehead’s characters might say of their creator, When you’re hot, you’re hot.

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HARLEM SHUFFLE

After winning back-to-back Pulitzer Prizes for his previous two books, Whitehead lets fly with a typically crafty change-up: a crime novel set in mid-20th-century Harlem.

The twin triumphs of The Underground Railroad (2016) and The Nickel Boys (2019) may have led Whitehead’s fans to believe he would lean even harder on social justice themes in his next novel. But by now, it should be clear that this most eclectic of contemporary masters never repeats himself, and his new novel is as audacious, ingenious, and spellbinding as any of his previous period pieces. Its unlikely and appealing protagonist is Ray Carney, who, when the story begins in 1959, is expecting a second child with his wife, Elizabeth, while selling used furniture and appliances on Harlem’s storied, ever bustling 125th Street. Ray’s difficult childhood as a hoodlum’s son forced to all but raise himself makes him an exemplar of the self-made man to everybody but his upper-middle-class in-laws, aghast that their daughter and grandchildren live in a small apartment within earshot of the subway tracks. Try as he might, however, Ray can’t quite wrest free of his criminal roots. To help make ends meet as he struggles to grow his business, Ray takes covert trips downtown to sell lost or stolen jewelry, some of it coming through the dubious means of Ray’s ne’er-do-well cousin, Freddie, who’s been getting Ray into hot messes since they were kids. Freddie’s now involved in a scheme to rob the Hotel Theresa, the fabled “Waldorf of Harlem," and he wants his cousin to fence whatever he and his unsavory, volatile cohorts take in. This caper, which goes wrong in several perilous ways, is only the first in a series of strenuous tests of character and resources Ray endures from the back end of the 1950s to the Harlem riots of 1964. Throughout, readers will be captivated by a Dickensian array of colorful, idiosyncratic characters, from itchy-fingered gangsters to working-class women with a low threshold for male folly. What’s even more impressive is Whitehead’s densely layered, intricately woven rendering of New York City in the Kennedy era, a time filled with both the bright promise of greater economic opportunity and looming despair due to the growing heroin plague. It's a city in which, as one character observes, “everybody’s kicking back or kicking up. Unless you’re on top.”

As one of Whitehead’s characters might say of their creator, When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54513-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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