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HOUSE OF FAT MAN

RULES IN THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE

A grim but often engaging missing-person tale.

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In Gerard-Alesco’s thriller, an American ex-pat in Thailand stumbles into a world of drug trafficking and shifting alliances when he tries to find a missing friend.

Greg Robber is an oddly named young man with a gift for languages. He’s recruited by a CIA man named Elliot at Oxford’s Christ Church College in England, and then sent to the Thai village of Chiang Mai. Greg’s cover is that he’s taking notes and photos to write a book about the customs of the hill people, but his real mission is to “watch, listen, and report” on the local drug trade to Elliot. In the process, Greg befriends some idealistic Westerners, including Albie Saint Clair, a wealthy geophysicist, who sets up a research facility, hoping to end the local practice of slashing and burning teak forests to grow opium, and Mary Peyton, a saintly nun who runs a health clinic. But a malevolent figure known as Fat Man runs a local gambling establishment, compels local businesses to pay protection, and distributes opium. His vicious offspring, Fat Boy, is his enforcer. When Greg’s initial mission ends, he stays on as Albie’s translator—but then Albie disappears. Greg searches for his friend in Thailand and then crosses the Burmese border, fearing that the worst has happened. Gerard-Alesco adeptly creates a corrupt world that recalls the work of Raymond Chandler with its morally ambiguous characters. Some villagers destroy forests and grow opium, for instance, but they do so for survival and are shown to be otherwise upstanding. Even the book’s central player, Greg, is far from a hero: He cares about his friends, but he allows his loyal pal Wes to express racist, antigay, and misogynist views unchallenged. The protagonist is also effectively shown to be lustful, uncertain, and aimless, and he allows others, including Elliot and Albie’s sister, Gwen, to determine his fate for him. The author also paints a vivid picture of Thailand, in which tour buses mingle with water buffalo–drawn carts on the streets. Overall, the picturesque setting, flawed protagonist, and noir atmosphere make this thriller stand out.

A grim but often engaging missing-person tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781629672625

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Wise Media Group

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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MIND GAMES

A touching story of love and grief ends in an epic battle of good versus evil.

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Roberts’ latest may move you to tears, or joy, or dread, or all three.

Every summer, John and Cora Fox visit Cora’s mother, Lucy Lannigan, in Redbud Hollow, Kentucky, leaving their children, 12-year-old Thea and 10-year-old Rem, for a two-week taste of heaven. The children love Grammie Lucy far more than John’s snooty family, which looks down on Cora. Lucy, a healer with deep Appalachian roots, loves animals, cooks the best meals, plays musical instruments, and makes soap and candles for her thriving business. Thea—who’s inherited the psychic abilities passed down through the women of Lucy’s family—has vivid magical dreams, one of which becomes a living nightmare when a psychopath robs and murders John and Cora as Thea watches helplessly. Thea’s description of the killer and her ability to see him in real time help the skeptical police catch Ray Riggs, who goes to prison for life. Although Thea and Rem go on to have a wonderful childhood with Grammie, Thea constantly wages a mental battle with Riggs, who tries to use his own psychic abilities to get into her mind. Over the years, Thea uses her imagination to become a game designer while the more business-minded Rem helps manage her career. Thea eventually builds a house near Lucy, where a newly arrived neighbor is her teen crush, singer-songwriter Tyler Brennan. Tyler has his own issues and is protective of his young son but slowly builds a loving relationship with Thea, whose silence about her abilities leads to a devastating misunderstanding. At first Thea tries to keep Riggs locked out of her mind. As her powers grow, she torments him. Finally, she realizes that she must win this battle and destroy him if she’s ever to have peace.

A touching story of love and grief ends in an epic battle of good versus evil.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781250289698

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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