A thoughtful and intense drama about how insidiously family ties can be exploited.

WATCHING YOU WITHOUT ME

A woman returns to her childhood home to settle her late mother’s affairs. A household aide is suspiciously eager to assist.

Karen, the narrator of Coady’s sixth novel, has returned from Toronto to her childhood home in Nova Scotia after her mother’s death. In addition to arranging to sell the house, Karen needs to find a place for her developmentally disabled sister, Kelli, and she feels lucky to have a plan already in place: A decent facility has a room ready, and a home aide, Trevor, has been showing up regularly to take Kelli on walks. Kelli and Trevor seem to have a great rapport, but practically from the start Trevor’s demeanor seems manipulative and vaguely threatening: He's overly familiar around the house, making nonregular visits using his key while steering Karen away from sensible decisions regarding Kelli’s care. And Kelli herself soon suffers spells of illness that are hard to explain. That Karen is being gaslit is never in doubt; the novel’s drama comes from Coady’s sensitivity to how Karen, a savvy woman, could be manipulated by a man who isn’t especially bright but knows her emotional weak spots. Coady has a talent for inventing creeps: Her novel The Antagonist (2013) features a half-crazed man who feels his life has been exploited by a novelist. Trevor is similarly unstable, and Coady takes a giddy pleasure in stretching out scenes that expose his capacity for menace while cloaking his intentions. And Kelli, inspired by Coady’s real-life uncle, is a rich character in her own right: Coady is careful not to make her a mere plot device, inhabiting her hard-to-express thoughts and emotions with an acuity that heightens the drama. Karen and Kelli’s unique sisterhood deepens the more Trevor tries to drive a wedge between the two.

A thoughtful and intense drama about how insidiously family ties can be exploited.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65843-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A richly atmospheric thriller with a plucky heroine.

THE LAST TO VANISH

When a man arrives at a North Carolina mountain hotel looking for clues to his journalist brother’s recent disappearance, the trail that he and the inn’s young manager start to follow leads them back to a sequence of unsolved cases, decades apart, that involve other missing hikers and that may be rooted in the town’s deepest secrets.

Labeled by the national press as “the most dangerous town in North Carolina,” Cutter’s Pass is a pretty place in which hikers have over the years had a tendency to vanish. There were the Fraternity Four, as a group of students came to be called, who disappeared in 1997; Alice Kelly in 2012; Farrah Jordan in 2019; and Landon West in 2022. To Abby Lovett, however, Cutter’s Pass, and in particular the town’s hotel, the Passage Inn, has become her adopted home and her refuge from a troubled past. As manager of the inn, Abby has come to know everybody, to love the wild mountain trails, and to learn that appearances can be deceptive. “Things here were designed to appear more fragile than they were,” she notes of the inn’s folksy touches, “but reinforced, because they had to be. We lived in the mountains, on the edge of the woods, subject to the whims of weather and the forces of nature.” In economical yet elegant descriptions, author Miranda repeatedly conjures up this untamed natural world even as she unspools a labyrinthine plot that has its roots in the distant past but that originates in the present when Trey West appears one stormy night at the Passage Inn. “He believed he could find them all,” Abby realizes when she and Trey, drawn to each other and into the quest for Trey’s missing brother, find a clue that links the most recent mystery to each of the ones that went before. The novel’s characters are deftly sketched and its suspense is nicely tightened, though the plot finally loses itself somewhat in a tangle of strained connections.

A richly atmospheric thriller with a plucky heroine.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982147-31-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books/Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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