Taut pacing and complicated characters shape this rich examination of the modern family.

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THE THIRD WIFE

British bestseller Jewell's last few novels have been a revelation—emotionally sophisticated and complex—and this latest, which gradually rewrites the history of a "perfect" family, is a fine follow-up.

Late one night, alone and uncharacteristically drunk, 30-year-old Maya is hit by a London bus. Was it an accident? Suicide? Her husband, Adrian, can't imagine why his sweet Maya would want to kill herself, but as the novel unfolds, cracks are revealed in his perfect family. An architect pushing 50, Adrian Wolfe is a lovely man, as everyone agrees. His first wife, Susie, mother of the gregarious Cat and pretentious Luke, both in their 20, holds no hard feelings that he left her in the country for a glamorous London life with the chic Caroline. Caroline lives in their stunningly restored Islington townhouse with their three children, all under 12, Otis, Pearl, and Beau. When, four years ago, Adrian left Caroline for Maya, he made every effort to keep the family intact—all of them holiday together (three wives, five children) and happily share custody. Or so Adrian insists to anyone who asks. When a strange woman begins stalking him, and Luke finds threatening emails addressed to Maya on her laptop, Adrian begins to investigate. In flashbacks from Maya's perspective, another side of the Wolfe family is revealed—she feels like an interloper, childless in a family where children are totems, and is slowly disintegrating from the onslaught of anonymous emails (though she knows they must be from a family member—the missives are too intimate and immediate to have been written by anyone else). Most damning of all, she finds herself falling in love with the family's other outsider, Luke. Adrian is convinced the woman stalking him has answers, if only he can track her down. Although it is certain no one literally pushed Maya into that bus, Jewell shapes the novel as part whodunit, part psychological thriller: Maya was excised from the family, but why and by whom?

Taut pacing and complicated characters shape this rich examination of the modern family.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9218-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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