Bethany Graves and her teenage daughter, Willow, moved to The Hollows from New York City when the bestselling novelist...

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DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND

Unger (Fragile, 2010, etc) resurrects characters from a previous novel and continues their journeys in this latest angsty thriller.

Bethany Graves and her teenage daughter, Willow, moved to The Hollows from New York City when the bestselling novelist divorced Willow’s stepfather, a shallow, self-absorbed plastic surgeon. Thinking that the experience of small-town living might provide a cure for Willow’s recent penchant of lying about everything, Beth settles into writing another book. She also jumps back into the dating game with Willow’s high-school principal, Henry Ivy, a nice, nerdy sort of guy who has been nursing a secret for many years. But then, this is The Hollows, and everyone has some sort of secret in his past, including Jones Cooper, the retired cop resurrected from a previous novel. Jones has been doing odd jobs for the neighbors since he left from the force. Now, instead of chasing bad guys, he feeds the neighborhood cats and lets the repairman in while the neighbor’s at work. But soon a former colleague comes calling and wants his help with a cold case, and a young mother seeks him out to find the missing mom of a classmate of Willow’s. Before Jones knows it, he is back in the investigations business, but a local psychic warns him that she has seen a terrible vision involving him and, if her predictions hold true, this could be Jones’ last case ever. Unger introduces a dizzying number of characters who seem to have little, if anything, in common except for their location, but manages to tie them all neatly together. Although the outcome is not exactly a shocker since Unger sprinkles clues like breadcrumbs along the way, it’s a satisfying story with an eclectic and interesting cast of characters and believable dialogue. Unger shows her usual deftness at intricate plotting and explores the mother-child relationship from multiple angles, but too often refers to back story from a previous novel without explanation. That tendency often leaves readers wondering if they missed something along the way.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-46499-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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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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