A thriller with an uncomplicated plot that’s invigorated by a main character whose profound messages will spark rumination.

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COMFORT AND AFFLICTION

A reverend’s sermons at a Methodist church in Georgia find supporters and a small but potentially dangerous resistance in Frosolono’s (Thoroughly Biased Opinions, 2012, etc.) religious drama.

The Rev. Eric Jameson’s assignment at Aldersgate United comes with specific instructions: bring the church’s reactionary views “fully into the 21st century.” He makes waves almost immediately when, during the Independence Day service, he suggests that the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence don’t abide by the Holy Scripture. The reverend, a retired Army colonel and recipient of the Medal of Honor, faces accusations of being unpatriotic by the church’s lay leader, Ralph Whitfield, who also happens to be commander of the Southern Restoration Movement—essentially, a white-supremacy group. As attendance at Aldersgate increases, so does Ralph’s ire. Soon, Eric has someone else to worry about: a new romantic interest, lawyer Allison Stevens, and her son, Joseph. Ralph, meanwhile, concocts a scheme for the Restorers that quickly turns deadly. Frosolono’s novel features a laudable protagonist who clearly cares about his parishioners. Even if readers disagree with Eric’s perspective, his sermons typically deal with acceptance and tolerance. Eric makes controversial arguments with conviction and intelligence; for example, he says that it’s blasphemous to state a belief in the Ten Commandments if one doesn’t live in accordance with them. Eric’s background also makes him a deeply complex character; the opening scene at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2010, for example, shows that he’s capable of brutality, if necessary. Ralph is a bit too blunt as Eric’s antithesis, and he’s flagrantly racist and homophobic. However, some of the scenes in which he plots against Eric are unnerving. The dialogue is occasionally stiff and unnatural; as Allison discusses a project with Eric, for example, she tells him, “Let me cogitate a while.” Their flourishing romance is likewise stilted; when Eric proposes sex, the couple’s conversation sounds like a business deal. The ending, however, is remarkable and a sublime contrast to the violent beginning.

A thriller with an uncomplicated plot that’s invigorated by a main character whose profound messages will spark rumination.

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1940192628

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2015

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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