A kidnapping tale dishes out edgy melodrama in the vein of a dark, unsettling soap opera.

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The Most Important Thing

A woman’s sudden disappearance exposes a slew of grim, bitter secrets surrounding her family in this debut thriller.

When Melanie Tate vanishes, her car abandoned in a store parking lot, Burke Lake Detective Stan Yates naturally zeroes in on her husband, Jeff. Cops often suspect the spouse, but Yates has good reason to. Jeff may have resented Melanie, daughter of late oil tycoon Harry Woodward, for stashing her hefty million-dollar inheritance, opting to save the money for their children. The couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Sara, is so sure of her father’s guilt that in a tweet she suggests that police check the backyard. Of course, authorities have security footage of someone snatching Melanie near her car. The culprit doesn’t look like Jeff, but Yates may have a way to link him to a convict locked up back when Melanie was employed at the Department of Corrections. Readers know that Melanie is alive, chained up in a basement by a man calling himself Brian and insisting her name is Brie. Brian believes that, if he holds her long enough, she’ll warm up to her captor, which may be working: Melanie alternates between herself and the Brie persona. Jeff, even if he’s not behind the kidnapping, is unquestionably hiding something from the cops. But he isn’t the only one, as family and friends know a lot more than they’re saying. The deceptively simple abduction plot gradually adds succulent details, like the fact that Melanie was fairly sure Jeff was having an affair. These eventually lead to numerous surprises that throw suspicion on Jeff as well as another character or two. At the same time, perspective from nearly every character, from the Tate twins to irrefutably creepy Brian, makes everyone at least capable, if not culpable, of something shady. Better editing would have polished the narrative, hampered a bit by grammatical inaccuracies. Frequent run-ons, for example, result in choppy sentences: “He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time Yates his whole life and this case was no exception.” But they’re never outright confusing and certainly forgivable once the twisty tale begins unraveling all the way to its startling conclusion.

A kidnapping tale dishes out edgy melodrama in the vein of a dark, unsettling soap opera.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-63757-9

Page Count: 310

Publisher: DeLorge Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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