A solid, well-written tale wrought in entrancing detail.

THE ETRUSCAN

In this haunting literary gothic novel, American photographer Harriet Sackett barely escapes with her life after traveling to a small Italian village.

After a disappointing love affair, Harriet journeys to the country village of Vitorchiano to research and photograph Etruscan tombs. She rents a farmhouse from the mysterious Count Federigo Del Re, resident of the nearby run-down castle. Harriet’s letters–with their romantic descriptions of the charming farmhouse and surrounding countryside–intrigue her closest friend Sarah. But when Sarah, her husband Stephen (also Harriet’s cousin) and George, a family friend, encounter Harriet a few months later, they find her drastically changed. Sarah thinks Harriet’s bewitched, and Stephen decides to send their trusted housekeeper, Mrs. Parsons, to look after her. Mrs. Parsons finds Harriet on the brink of insanity, in a dark and dank place bearing no resemblance to the enchanting cottage described in the letters. The only clue to what has transpired is Harriet’s diary; Stephen and George try to verify the facts contained in the diary, with little success. Readers will devour the tantalizing words of the diary and will become absorbed in guilty, voyeuristic fascination as Harriet describes her increasing obsession with the Count and the terrible consequences. Considering Harriet’s state, the friends are unsure how much of the diary is real and how much is the product of a mind skirting the edges of sanity. As the unraveling of Harriet’s mind is revealed, so to are the secrets between Sarah, Stephen, George, Mrs. Parsons and Harriet, which are no less fascinating than the diary. Mystery, fear, betrayal and uncertainty abound as Harriet’s story unfolds against the backdrop of Etruscan tombs and cemeteries. Influenced by D.H. Lawrence’s travelogue Etruscan Places, Lappin elegantly brings the characters, Italian countryside and surroundings to life in vivid, engrossing prose.

A solid, well-written tale wrought in entrancing detail.

Pub Date: July 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-904893-00-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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