Despite plot pieces that fit together a little too snugly, Sandlin blends pathos, humor, and poetic prose in a strong debut.

THE DO-RIGHT

A former oilman and a determined parolee form a detective team in Texas’ bayou country.

Delpha Wade is conscientiously following her parole officer’s rules for finding a place to live and a job: act as polite as possible and ask for what she needs. This double-A advice lands her a room in the New Rosemont Hotel in exchange for looking after the owner’s ancient aunt and a day job as secretary for Tom Phelan’s brand-new detective agency. She does more than ask for the job: she greets the first customer, who's been drawn in by an ad in the Beaumont Enterprise, and starts acting like Tom’s secretary before he’s even agreed to hire her. Tom, who recently lost part of a finger on an oil rig, wants to keep the remaining nine digits and has put all his workers’ comp into this new business. But Delpha’s 14 years for voluntary manslaughter at the Gatesville Women’s Prison, known locally as the Do-Right, taught her more than bookkeeping and typing. She learned more about what got her there in the first place for killing one of two men who were raping her—the will to survive. Now she’s just what Tom needs to nudge him into taking the case of a missing boy and help with the stakeout of a cheating husband, the recovery of a missing artificial leg, and the mystery of a possibly poisoned dog. In her off hours, Delpha helps her landlady seek a mysterious Tiffany item and starts a love affair with a Princeton dropout. While the Watergate hearings blare in the background and Beaumont’s colorful citizenry discusses them and every other topic large and small, Tom’s admiration for Delpha grows, along with his unease about the adulterous husband and the only temporarily missing boy. But in his blossoming detective zeal to dig more deeply into the cases, he doesn’t realize how much he’s endangering his able sidekick.

Despite plot pieces that fit together a little too snugly, Sandlin blends pathos, humor, and poetic prose in a strong debut.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941026-19-9

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Perhaps too much ingenuity for its own good. But except for Jeffery Deaver and Sophie Hannah, no one currently working the...

THE SENTENCE IS DEATH

Fired Scotland Yard detective Daniel Hawthorne bursts onto the scene of his unwilling collaborator and amanuensis, screenwriter/novelist Anthony, who seems to share all Horowitz’s (Forever and a Day, 2018, etc.) credentials, to tell him that the game’s afoot again.

The victim whose death requires Hawthorne’s attention this time is divorce attorney Richard Pryce, bashed to death in the comfort of his home with a wine bottle. The pricey vintage was a gift from Pryce’s client, well-to-do property developer Adrian Lockwood, on the occasion of his divorce from noted author Akira Anno, who reportedly celebrated in a restaurant only a few days ago by pouring a glass of wine over the head of her husband’s lawyer. Clearly she’s too good a suspect to be true, and she’s soon dislodged from the top spot by the news that Gregory Taylor, who’d long ago survived a cave-exploring accident together with Pryce that left their schoolmate Charles Richardson dead, has been struck and killed by a train at King’s Cross Station. What’s the significance of the number “182” painted on the crime scene’s wall and of the words (“What are you doing here? It’s a bit late”) with which Pryce greeted his murderer? The frustrated narrator (The Word Is Murder, 2018) can barely muster the energy to reflect on these clues because he’s so preoccupied with fending off the rudeness of Hawthorne, who pulls a long face if his sidekick says boo to the suspects they interview, and the more-than-rudeness of the Met’s DI Cara Grunshaw, who threatens Hawthorne with grievous bodily harm if he doesn’t pass on every scrap of intelligence he digs up. Readers are warned that the narrator’s fondest hope—“I like to be in control of my books”—will be trampled and that the Sherlock-ian solution he laboriously works out is only the first of many.

Perhaps too much ingenuity for its own good. But except for Jeffery Deaver and Sophie Hannah, no one currently working the field has anywhere near this much ingenuity to burn.

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267683-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Tepid terrors along the way to a mildly surprising end.

JUST ONE LOOK

Suburban thriller from the prolific Coben (No Second Chance, 2002, etc.), about a perfect husband who disappears when a photo from the past shows up in the latest batch from the photomat.

Perfectly in love since their romantic meeting in France 15 years earlier, Jack and Grace Lawson are living the suburban dream: Windstar, Saab, daughter, son. He makes lots of money, she makes lots of art. There is a teeny flaw. Grace limps. It’s the scar she bears from the trauma she endured before the trip to France. There was this rock concert. Shots were fired. Panic. Deaths. Heroism. Cowardice. Badly mangled Grace made it out of a coma with a week or two of memory gone and a healthy dislike of big crowds. Suddenly the superperfect life she has built from the ruins has gone off the rails. Tucked in among a set of newly developed photos is a snap taken sometime in the ’80s. It shows a group of young people, possibly hip for the decade, and one of the lads, while hairier and callower, is clearly Jack. The insertion could only have been at the hands of the slacker in the Kodak kiosk, but he’s disappeared. And, upon viewing the photo, so has Jack, leaving Grace to ask that old reliable story-starting question: “Just who is this man I thought I knew?” Answers must be found quickly, for handsome Jack has been captured by a cold-blooded, sadistic, Korean killer and lies senseless in the boot of the stolen family minivan. Detective assistance comes from a rogue District Attorney, a wacky girlfriend, a lovelorn neighbor, a tough Jewish cop with a hole in his heart where his wife used to be, a shadowy, powerful mob guy whose son died at the rock concert, and possibly from Jimmy X, the rocker whose concert seems to have started the present subdivisional mayhem all those years ago.

Tepid terrors along the way to a mildly surprising end.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-525-94791-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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