MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU

The arresting opening tableau—a young woman buried alive in a satin-lined coffin—is a perfect image for the sleekly cushioned menace Clark dispenses in her 13th novel (Silent Night, 1995, etc.). Flashback 20 days to the night photographer Maggie Holloway meets her long-ago stepmother, Nuala Moore, and Nuala invites her to visit her place in Newport. Before Maggie's arrival, though- -and, more crucially, before Nuala can carry out her plan to move into the nonpareil Latham Manor Residence—Nuala is killed and her house ransacked, and Maggie finds to her astonishment that Nuala's will leaves the Newport house to her. Why would anybody want to kill an inoffensive old lady like Nuala? Well, somebody might be trying to pick up her house for a song (somebody like Nuala's attorney Malcolm Norton or shady broker Douglas Hansen); or somebody might be after the fat deposit the next applicant for Nuala's new suite would have to pay Latham Manor (somebody like incompetent director Dr. William Lane or nosey nurse Zelda Markey); or somebody might need to shut Nuala up about her knowledge of several other suspect deaths, with another still impending, of Latham Manor residents (whoever may have helped those residents into the great beyond); or somebody might be just a little obsessed with the whole subject of death (somebody like wild-eyed funeral expert Prof. Earl Bateman). As usual in her recent work, Clark ends up tying all these threats in together, so that the land grab, the nursing-home deposit scam, the investment fraud, the sinister messages sent by a series of funeral bells, and the Latham Manor murders all turn out to be the work of a single diligent soul, who (don't forget) has the same wicked designs on Maggie as on Nuala. About average for Clark's G-rated thrillers, as if you were counting—with enough material on funerary customs to make you resolve to live forever. (Literary Guild Main Selection; author tour)

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-81038-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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