An engrossing crime tale that would make a lean and mean movie.

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In this debut novel, the events leading up to the brutal murders of a ranch foreman and his wife unfold through a variety of viewpoints.

“Something bad” has happened on the ranch of Sam Duff, “the big name T.V. broadcaster and part time rancher.” The bodies of foreman Luke Pruitt and his third wife, Deona, have been found in a manure pit while their two children, Leeland, 14, and his preteen sister, Karmen, are missing. Chapters of Burns’ compelling book alternate between Deputy Rob Greenwood’s investigation and the perspectives of the principals and participants involved in the case. These include the ill-fated Luke, who, like his father, Payton, was “meaner-than-shit” and made Benedict Cumberbatch in the film The Power of the Dog look like Roy Rogers. Linda Pruitt, his mother, was “a genuine ranch woman,” whose Ranching Weekly column contained such homespun (and posthumously ironic) wisdom as “Cowboys expect a lot of their families because they expect a lot of themselves,” and who met an unfortunate end. Most heartbreakingly, there is Luke’s abused son, Leeland, who admits to his school counselor that he does not want to be a cowboy. But haunting the narrative is the communal “We,” one voice that guiltily confesses, “We’d seen it coming, and stood by watching it the way we’d watch a dry storm approach across flat land—always thinking we had more time.” This bruising story is less a murder mystery than an unflinching look at a culture and community. Burns writes with a vivid sense of place and ranch life. Dialogue is effectively terse. “I wouldn’t treat my livestock” the way “Luke and Deona Pruitt treated that boy,” one character remarks. Evocative descriptions add rich grace notes (“Only a clarinet could have mimicked the sadness of that boy’s voice”). There are a few positive adult characters who offer compassion and a helping hand, but there is little respite for readers, which may make it hard going for some. As Luke growls at one point, “This is no tea party.”

An engrossing crime tale that would make a lean and mean movie.

Pub Date: May 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63988-366-0

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2022


A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.

Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.

A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780062406651

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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