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A well-crafted tale of isolation, redemption, and love amid societal constraints.

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Boncek offers an introspective novel about the murder of a teenager in an isolated religious community.

In 1955, Art Moran, the sole police officer in the small, upstate town of Fosterdale, New York, is in way over his head when he’s called to investigate the killing of a teenage girl in a religious settlement on the outskirts of town. The murdered girl, Keziah Diamond, is the younger sister of his former high school girlfriend, Becky, who secretly had his child. Fast-spreading word of the murder stirs up long-held prejudices the townspeople have for the people of Diamond City. Art struggles to get justice for Keziah’s family and community, putting himself at odds with not only local townspeople, but also members of his own family. When the mayor asks the county government to remove all of Diamond City’s children from their homes, due to alleged neglect, the remaining community members resort to an act of desperation that leaves Art traumatized and the murder unsolved. Nearly four decades later, in 1992, Tirzah Carter, Becky’s daughter and Keziah’s niece, returns to Fosterdale to learn more about her past and realizes who the real killer is. The reopening of this cold case challenges the townspeople to confront their prejudices, and Art, now an aging loner, returns to face his own past. This story is, in many ways, about small communities, showing that the smaller and more close-knit they are, the more they shun people who don’t fit in. Boncek effectively contrasts the remote, cultlike community of Diamond City with that of Fosterdale, a quintessential American small town, and the latter comes off as much worse. The murder isn’t a mystery for very long, and it eventually becomes a poorly kept secret that the town sits on for nearly 40 years. One might expect the gruesome opening scene in a thriller, but the story unfurls more as a thoughtful exploration of the way people’s lives are shaped (or misshapen) by expectations and prejudices. Overall, the novel nimbly presents a crime story with fully realized characters and resonant themes.

A well-crafted tale of isolation, redemption, and love amid societal constraints.

Pub Date: April 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781639887880

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

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A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

A one-eyed boy becomes a monster’s prey in this chilling tale of missing children.

Thirteen-year-old Missouri boy Joseph “Patch” Macauley was born with one eye, so he wears an eye patch and imagines himself a pirate. In 1975, he sees a masked man assaulting a girl in the woods. He attacks the man and saves her, but the predator kidnaps him instead. Patch eventually wakes in total darkness in a cellar where a different girl secretly visits him, heard but always unseen. He learns that her name is Grace and that there have been other girls down there before. Grace paints vivid word pictures of the places she’s seen and of stories by authors like Steinbeck. “Pray and stay alive,” she whispers to Patch. Eventually he escapes, but she is nowhere to be found. Searching for Grace is the underlying thread in a complicated quest that takes unexpected turns over the years and might well bring heartbreak. Meanwhile, the bodies of three girls turn up locally, and their parents grieve. Is the town doctor responsible for their deaths? A local school photographer? Both? Patch paints an image of Grace based only on what he’d heard from her in the cellar; then come more paintings and displays in an art gallery—an implausible achievement for an untrained artist. Meanwhile, Grace may be anywhere, and he must find her whether alive or dead. By now an adult, he “pinball[s]” from state to state, meeting with “a dozen families looking for a dozen lost girls.” To sustain himself he robs banks with an unloaded flintlock, and he shares his loot with organizations that are looking for missing children. He has “reasoned the truest proof of life [is] pain,” and he vows that he will die before he quits his search. This is much more than a whodunit, though it fills that bill well. It is also a richly layered tale of love, loss, and hope.

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593798874

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2024

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A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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