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

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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Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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