The long-anticipated seventh book may reveal what's still missing from this series, because it certainly isn’t detail.



The sixth installment of Riley’s mammoth series about the adopted daughters of an enigmatic shipping magnate.

This volume, weighing in at 500-plus pages, concerns Electra, the youngest of the six D’Aplièse sisters—each named for a star in the Pleiades constellation—who were rescued by seafaring entrepreneur “Pa Salt.” As always, the prefatory cast of characters notes that a seventh sister, Merope, is “missing.” Like her sisters before her, Electra was bequeathed clues by Pa (who died under mysterious circumstances) as to her birth origins. But Electra, a Manhattan supermodel who’s addicted to vodka and cocaine, is blasé about her personal quest. When Stella Jackson, a prominent black attorney, claims to be Electra’s biological grandmother, Riley begins the extended backstory common to all the books, this one about Electra’s ancestor. Stella’s reluctance to spill the beans all at once and Electra’s own prodigious procrastination slow the narrative just enough to maintain suspense. The tale centers on Cecily Huntley-Morgan, a white New York socialite who, on the eve of World War II, finds herself living in Kenya in a marriage of convenience to Bill Forsythe, who spends most of his time away on cattle drives with Maasai tribesmen. This situation stems from Cecily’s broken engagement in New York, which she followed with an unwanted pregnancy courtesy of a rebound rake. Rarely for this series, both storylines hold their own. Electra checks into rehab, vowing to forswear hedonism and use her fame and wealth to help addicted and underprivileged youth. The Kenyan setting, in seeming homage to Out of Africa, is colorfully atmospheric even as Cecily remains stolidly unhedonistic amid the Happy Valley set of hard-partying and dissolute British expats who surround her. The second half of the novel plumbs, with many detours and digressions and much descriptive minutiae, the mystery of how Cecily and Stella are connected and how Electra came to be abandoned.

The long-anticipated seventh book may reveal what's still missing from this series, because it certainly isn’t detail.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1064-2

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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.


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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