Jewell offers an intriguing premise and characters but has difficulty maintaining plot momentum and creating depth of...

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THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN

Mysterious, life-threatening injuries to a teenage girl cause previously close-knit neighborhood families to examine each other with concern and suspicion.

Displaced after their father’s psychotic break, during which he burned down their house, young teenagers Pip and Grace move with their mother, Clare, to a London community steeped in multigenerational family drama stemming from the unexplained death of a 15-year-old girl in the communal garden years earlier. Pip’s deep longing for her absent father and concern about her sister’s new friends—the other teenagers in the community—are conveyed through letters to her father. This teenage narrative perspective is balanced with those of Adele, a neighborhood mother who home-schools her three teenage daughters, and, to a lesser extent, Clare as she considers whether to reconnect with her husband upon his release from the hospital. The novel is split into sections: the opening features Pip finding a violently injured and unconscious Grace in the park following a community party, and the following sections explore the complex adult and teenage relationships both leading up to the attack and following it. Although Grace survives, the community is reminded of the unsolved death of a teenage girl who was related to or known by many of the adults in the neighborhood, which makes them question how well they know each other or their children’s friends. While Jewell creates a story ripe with anticipation and emotion, she ultimately fails to develop a climax that would bring together the several dramatic tropes at work (a mentally unstable father who believes he hears rodents in the walls; the tensions between teenage girls, especially when it comes to friendships and dating). The reader is left trying to reconcile the adult characters’ actions with the insufficient explanations of their motivations.

Jewell offers an intriguing premise and characters but has difficulty maintaining plot momentum and creating depth of character.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9221-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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

THE SILENT PATIENT

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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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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