An engrossing, if subdued, psychological tale.



In this novel, a woman’s search for meaning takes on new urgency when a stranger takes up residence in her garden house.

Miranda is a recent empty nester who isn’t quite sure where to devote her time and energy now that her children are out in the world. She decides to fix up the garden house on her property to use as an art studio—she used to paint before giving it up to be a wife and mother—but when she mentions her idea to her husband, Ben, she learns the building is soon to be inhabited. Unbeknown to Miranda, Ben has rented out the garden house to William Priestly, a somewhat mysterious friend of a friend. “A teacher or journalist or something,” says Ben. “From out East. New York, I think.” At first, Miranda is just happy that the garden house is in use—but then her sleep begins to be disturbed by unpleasant dreams. Ben thinks Miranda’s nightmares—which frequently involve children and shadowy predators—are inspired by her trips dropping some things off at the local teen shelter. As Miranda begins to notice William’s strange behavior—his odd hours, his comings and goings—she can’t help but wonder if he has something to do with her visions. After all, what do they really know about this stranger? Mahkovec’s prose is sharp and fluid, building tension in small domestic scenes: Miranda “heard a car door slam and went to look out the bedroom window. William had parked in the rear of the garden house. When he opened the back door, golden lamp light poured outside, and then disappeared when he shut the door.” The premise is a fun one, and Miranda is a finely drawn character, believable even as she treads frequently into the realm of clichés. The author does not take as many risks with the plot as readers would like, but neither does she deliver the sort of traditional thriller that the audience expects. She delves thoughtfully into empty nest syndrome and midlife evaluations, but the novel never really gets as dark as it seems like it wants to be. The result, while not disappointing, is not completely satisfying either.

An engrossing, if subdued, psychological tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-946229-12-0

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Bublish, Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.


A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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