Hidden history and 21st-century technology collide in a breathtaking thriller.

A luxury vacation turns into a chain-reaction explosion of dark secrets in this tense tale.

Hannah frets over being away from her baby daughter for the first time, but she and her workaholic husband, Bruce, do need a break. And the vacation Hannah’s older brother, Mako, has arranged sounds too sumptuous to pass up: a long weekend in a luxury cabin deep in the North Georgia woods, complete with gourmet chef, in-house massage, and more. Mako has become wildly wealthy running a video game company, and he’s picking up the tab for all of it. The group also includes Mako’s wife, Liza, whom Hannah hopes to get closer to, and Hannah’s longtime best friend (and Mako’s ex-girlfriend), party girl Cricket. The only unknown is Cricket’s new boyfriend, Joshua. Well, Hannah thinks that’s the only unknown, but she’ll be proven wrong. The three couples arrive for the summer getaway despite a tropical storm brewing in the Atlantic that could curve their way. There are tales of ghosts on the property that suggest past violence there, but those could just be an inventive selling point. The host and cabin owner, Bracken, definitely has a creepy air, though (and almost no online footprint), and even scarier, his promise of Wi-Fi might not be reliable. This is Unger’s 20th novel, and she builds tension skillfully from Page 1 of a prologue about Christmas dinner with Hannah’s family, which ends bitterly over a mysterious gift of DNA test kits for everyone, which everyone claims to know nothing about. By the time the vacationers reach the cabin, the ominous mood is in place and everything seems disturbing, from the gleaming array of knives in the kitchen to a skull-shaped chandelier. Before they even make it through the first night’s dinner, one of the six disappears, and so does contact with the outside world. The others begin a frantic search as the storm blows in and as it becomes clear that all of them are in peril—but from whom, and why?

Hidden history and 21st-century technology collide in a breathtaking thriller.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-33323-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Park Row Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022


More style than substance.

Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


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

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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