A sharp, pitch-black thriller that takes the mean-girls trope to another level.

THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE

A woman’s dark past resurfaces at her 10-year college reunion in Flynn’s adult debut.

Thirty-one-year-old Ambrosia Wellington’s job as a PR flack for a Manhattan firm isn’t the acting career she had aspired to when she started her freshman year at Wesleyan University. But she’s married to genuine nice guy Adrian, who adores her. When her comfortable, if not quite perfect, life is disrupted with emails from Wesleyan’s alumni committee announcing the upcoming reunion, she ignores them, but then she gets an anonymous message that changes everything: “You need to come. We need to talk about what we did that night.”Nearly 14 years ago, Amb couldn’t wait to leave her working-class New Jersey roots behind when she arrived at Wesleyan. Her roommate, Flora, was exactly the type of “freshly scrubbed,” saccharine-sweet “try-hard” that she despised, so when she met the magnetic and deviously cruel Sloane Sullivan, Amb finally felt like she belonged, but Sully’s price of admission was steep. Riding a wave of booze, cocaine, and ceaseless casual, drunken hookups was damaging enough, but it’s her relentless pursuit of Flora’s Dartmouth boyfriend that leads to catastrophe. Now, at the reunion, Amb must face her past and put it to rest, all while preventing Adrian from finding out about that terrible year. Sully has also received threatening messages, and Amb is wary of trusting her, but the devil she knows might be her only choice. One thing is clear: A reckoning is inevitable, and it won’t be pretty. Watching the deeply insecure Ambrosia morph into the toxic Sully’s broken acolyte is like paying witness to a slow-motion train wreck. It’s hard to sympathize with Amb, but her self-aware narration, which alternates between past and present, illustrates how a vulnerable psyche can be twisted into something exceedingly ugly. The ever rising tide of dread will keep readers hooked even when they realize that a happy ending may not be in the cards.

A sharp, pitch-black thriller that takes the mean-girls trope to another level.

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982144-62-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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More of a curiosity for political junkies than a satisfying story of international intrigue.

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WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS

A progressive superstar pens her first political thriller.

Anyone who follows the news knows Abrams as a politician and voting rights activist. She's less well known as a novelist. Using the pseudonym Selena Montgomery, Abrams has published several works of romantic suspense. Her new novel begins when Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn falls into a coma. His clerk Avery Keene is shocked to discover that her boss has made her his legal guardian and granted her power of attorney. The fate of one of the most powerful men in the world is in her hands—and her life is in danger. Abrams gives us nefarious doings in the world of biotech, a president with autocratic tendencies and questionable ethics, and a young woman struggling to unravel a conspiracy while staying one step ahead of the people who want her out of the way. Unfortunately, the author doesn't weave these intriguing elements into an enjoyable whole. Abrams makes some odd word choices, such as this: “The intricate knot she had twisted into her hair that morning bobbed cunningly as she neared her office.” The adverb cunningly is mystifying, and Abrams uses it in a similar way later on. There are disorienting shifts in point of view. And Abrams lavishes a great deal of attention on details that simply don’t matter, which makes the pace painfully slow. This is a fatal flaw in a suspense novel, but it may not be the most frustrating aspect of this book. For a protagonist who has gotten where she is by being smart, Avery makes some stunningly poor decisions. For example, the fact that she has a photographic memory is an important plot point and is clearly a factor in Justice Wynn’s decision to enlist her help. When she finds a piece of paper upon which is printed a long string of characters and the words "BURN UPON REVIEW," Avery memorizes the lines of numbers and letters—and then, even though she knows she’s being surveilled, she snaps a shot of the paper with her phone, thereby making the whole business of setting it on fire quite pointless.

More of a curiosity for political junkies than a satisfying story of international intrigue.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54657-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Fast-paced fun that’s fraught with peril. The Bells are such a nice couple.

THE SABOTEURS

Malign forces want to slow completion of the Panama Canal, but Isaac Bell has plenty to say about that in his 12th tale of derring-do.

In 1914, the U.S. is digging an enormous ditch across the mosquito-infested isthmus of Panama, with “mechanical dragons wreathed in steam” ripping out eight tons at a time in the Culebra Cut. Horrific incidents happen, and they’re not always accidents. A mysterious terrorist group called Viboras Rojas, or Red Vipers, seems responsible for an explosion that kills dozens and delays the canal’s construction. Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Detective Agency is sent there to investigate, and a team of wild horses wouldn’t keep his wife, Marion, from coming along. Bell keeps mighty busy. Within days, he’s “thwarted an assassination attempt and brought a mad bomber to heel,” and he’s just getting started. The detective is exceptionally observant and ingenious. How he survives a catastrophic landslide is such a combination of quick thinking and luck that readers will hold their breath as they turn the pages, only realizing later how unlikely it all is. Meanwhile, Germany conspires with Argentina to severely delay the canal’s opening—Argentina would lose plenty of oceangoing commerce, and as it girds for war in Europe, Germany fears America’s rise as a global power. The proximate villain is Otto Dreissen, who correctly believes that former President Teddy Roosevelt won’t be able to resist traveling to see “the most transformative engineering feat in history…dangers be damned”—and there is danger, since the kaiser has authorized Roosevelt's assassination. But first Dreissen must arrange an “accident” for Bell, the “man with the nine lives of a cat.” Poor Otto. He should know it’s not that easy to kill off a series hero. Nor a series hero’s wife, even when she’s dangling from a dirigible. A bonus tip to readers: Stay away from manchineel trees and superheated steam.

Fast-paced fun that’s fraught with peril. The Bells are such a nice couple.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-19122-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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