A compelling, taut portrait of love and broken promises.

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MEADOWLARK

When an email from a childhood friend invites photographer Simone to document life at a commune, little does she know she’s stepping into Waco-level drama.

Simone understands life on a commune; after all, she and her mother moved to one when Simone was 4. She was called Simrin there at Ananda Nagar, an ashram in the California desert. Twenty years later, Simrin is now Simone, a rising star in the photography world, with a blog showcasing her talents in capturing difficult, dramatic moments. Simone’s daughter, Quinn, has inherited her synesthesia, which her ex-husband finds weird. He’s pushing Simone to enroll Quinn in a conventional kindergarten. And that’s when Arjun contacts her. Now he calls himself Aaron, and he has a wife and three children, and he’s founded a new commune called Meadowlark, where every child can find their gifts. But a disgruntled former member has accused the ashram of harboring child abusers, and Aaron needs Simone’s help to show the world the real Meadowlark. Once there, however, Simone discovers that things are far more complex and dangerous than she thought. Aaron’s wife, who has secrets of her own, is adamantly opposed to having her children photographed. Juniper, Aaron’s eldest child, becomes jealous of Quinn’s talent. And Aaron’s own motives seem less than altruistic, especially as the police begin to push him to open the gates. In this, her sophomore novel, Abrams (Playing, 2017) gorgeously depicts the spellbinding world of closed communities, in which being noticed as special means everything. From the starkly beautiful desert landscapes that mirror the children’s thirst for attention to the brightly colored lines and shapes that Simone and Quinn see linking them to those they love, Abrams deftly conjures a highly charged emotional terrain.

A compelling, taut portrait of love and broken promises.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0735-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

ONE MINUTE OUT

Ninth in the author’s Gray Man series (Mission Critical, 2019, etc.) in which “the most elite assassin in the world” has his hands full.

Ex–CIA Agent Courtland Gentry (the Gray Man) has Serbian war criminal Ratko Babic in his gun sight, but when he decides instead to kill the old beast face to face, he uncovers a massive sex-slavery ring. “I don’t get off on this,” the Gray Man lies to the reader as he stabs a sentry. “I only kill bad people.” Of course he does. If there weren’t an endless supply of them to slay, he’d have little reason to live. Now, countless young Eastern European women are being lured into sexual slavery and fed into an international pipeline, sold worldwide through “the Consortium.” Bad guys refer to their captives as products, not people. They are “merchandise,” but their plight haunts the Gray Man, so of course he is going to rescue as many women as he can. The road to their salvation will be paved with the dead as he enlists a team of fighters to strike the enemy, which includes a South African dude who is giddy for the chance to meet and kill the Gray Man. Meanwhile, Europol analyst Talyssa Corbu meets the hero while on a personal mission to rescue her sister. “You don’t seem like a psychopath,” she tells him. Indeed, though he could play one on TV. Corbu and her sister are tough and likable characters while the director of the Consortium leads a double life as family man and flesh merchant. Human trafficking is an enormous real-life problem, so it’s satisfying to witness our larger-than-life protagonist put his combat skills to good use. There will be a sequel, of course. As a friend tells the wounded Gentry at the end, he’ll be off killing bozos again before he knows it.

Great storytelling about the pursuit of extrajudicial justice.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09891-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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