A swiftly paced, entertaining melodrama with a fine cast of characters.

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IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS

In this novel, fate seemingly unites individuals with intersecting pasts in California.

Retired 1st Sgt. Mike Jefferson heads to Charlie’s Restaurant to see the eponymous owner, who served in the Army with him. But Mike is immediately taken aback by waitress Nellie Johnson—the spitting image of Elizabeth Lawrence, whom he wed and lost decades ago. While overseas back then, he received notices of an annulment (she apparently was underage) and, shortly thereafter, her death. Now he’s convinced that Nellie is his daughter and that the news of Elizabeth’s demise was a fabrication. Nellie was a foundling and, having lost her husband two years prior, has only her young son, Jimmy. She’s currently dating George Hickman, whom Mike distrusts. Local Deputy Sheriff Sam Lacey is equally wary of “slick” George and also quite fond of Nellie. Indeed, George, who’s been pressuring Nellie to marry him, is cooking up something diabolical. He’s hoping to come into a considerable amount of wealth, a plan that involves a scrupulous attention to details. As he gets more desperate to acquire his riches, George soon sees certain people as obstacles, and getting rid of them may necessitate lethal means. Since the characters and backstory drive the plot, Martin diligently adds layers to the players. George’s sister, Caroline, for example, is more than a background character; she knows at least some of her brother’s scheme and, with her attraction to Sam, further complicates the tale’s romantic entanglements. The narrative, too, is believable, as some of the chance encounters among characters aren’t as coincidental as they initially appear. The author’s concise writing generates lucid passages and a brisk, progressively intense story, courtesy of an increasingly threatening George. But there is frequent repetition, as characters and the narrative too often cite Nellie’s red hair and “crystal-blue eyes.” In similar fashion, romantic couplings, while buoyant and appealing, happen too quickly and conveniently (including falling in love instantly).

A swiftly paced, entertaining melodrama with a fine cast of characters.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-977220-05-9

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2020

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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THE POET

Connelly takes a break from his Harry Bosch police novels (The Last Coyote, p. 328, etc.) for something even more intense: a reporter's single-minded pursuit of the serial killer who murdered his twin. Even his buddies in the Denver PD thought Sean McEvoy's shooting in the backseat of his car looked like a classic cop suicide, right clown to the motive: his despondency over his failure to clear the murder of a University of Denver student. But as Sean's twin brother, Jack, of the Rocky Mountain News, notices tiny clues that marked Sean's death as murder, his suspicions about the dying message Sean scrawled inside his fogged windshield—"Out of space. Out of time"—alert him to a series of eerily similar killings stretching from Sarasota to Albuquerque. The pattern, Jack realizes, involves two sets of murders: a series of sex killings of children, and then the executions (duly camouflaged as suicides) of the investigating police officers. Armed with what he's dug up, Jack heads off to Washington, to the Law Enforcement Foundation and the FBI. The real fireworks begin as Jack trades his official silence for an inside role in the investigation, only to find himself shut out of both the case and the story. From then on in, Jack, falling hard for Rachel Walling, the FBI agent in charge of the case, rides his Bureau connections like a bucking bronco—even as one William Gladden, a pedophile picked up on a low-level charge in Santa Monica, schemes to make bail before the police can run his prints through the national computer, then waits with sick patience for his chance at his next victim. The long-awaited confrontation between Jack and Gladden comes at an LA video store; but even afterward, Jack's left with devastating questions about the case. Connelly wrings suspense out of every possible aspect of Jack's obsessive hunt for his brother's killer. Prepare to be played like a violin.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-15398-2

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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