This adventure is more a fanciful story related by a mischievous uncle than an airport thriller—and all the more...

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THE PRESENT PAST

Sixty years after the Russo-Japanese War, a Russian field marshal’s grandson tries to unravel the mystery of a long-lost treasure in this globe-trotting debut novel.

It is 1965 and the Cold War is in full swing. Josh Ross, a World War II veteran–turned-diplomat, arrives in Istanbul to dissuade the Turkish government from pursuing hostilities toward Greece. There, he receives a mysterious letter, written in Russian and meant for his dead father. The missive leads him to André Zommer, an academic who fought in the Russo-Japanese War under Josh’s grandfather. Zommer tells Josh about his grandfather, a favorite of the czar and entrusted by the czarina with “something of great value, which she thought he could safeguard better than anyone”—namely a priceless coronation necklace given by Peter the Great to his second wife. This treasure could change the fortunes of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews looking to immigrate to Israel, so with Sarah Burstein, a Mossad “secretary,” in tow, Josh sets out to find the necklace. But the Soviets are aware of Josh’s presence in Istanbul, and ruthless KGB head Ivan Dzerzhinsky has dispatched operatives to monitor the diplomat’s increasingly suspicious movements as well as deal with anyone who gets in their way. What promises to be a breakneck international thriller in the Dan Brown vein is marred by incompetent antagonists, meager characterization, oddly placed chapter breaks (a prologue is sprinkled over four opening chapters), and a third-person, omniscient point of view that undermines dramatic tension. As a result, the action feels occasionally aimless and the dialogue is largely expositional. This could make for an aggravating read, but the engaging central mystery is rooted in a wealth of research, and Ross relates his story in the kind of breezy, eminently readable prose that frequently makes up for the novel’s shortcomings (“It was always amazing how inhabitants of an area under assault were like flocks of birds before an oncoming storm. Somehow they knew that the winds would howl and the skies would open and bring forth torrents of rain and lightning. They sought shelter far from the storm well before it came”). Autobiographical elements also help to give the narrative the intriguing texture of a tall tale, briskly told by an international man of mystery.

This adventure is more a fanciful story related by a mischievous uncle than an airport thriller—and all the more entertaining for it.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 237

Publisher: ATBOSH Media Ltd.

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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