Riveting, even as the protagonist struggles more with losing her personal identity than espionage.



An Israeli immigrant, coding for the FBI’s Cyber Crime Unit, hopes to bring her adopted sisters to America but winds up in the midst of a cyberwar in this thriller.

Years ago, the U.S. government enlisted Zoe Mousa to migrate a PC–based system to a MAC operation. The Israeli turned out to have a turbulent family history: after Islamic extremists murdered her parents when she was 12, Zoe was raised in the Delkash household in Iran. She believes her work with the FBI will get her U.S. citizenship, giving her the right to move her sisters Sarah and Jamileh from Noshahr to America. Zoe, however, lives in Claremont Village, California, not quite the “sleepy college town” it appears to be. For starters, it’s full of spies, and Zoe barely survives when armed Russians, hunting the programmer who discovered their code, storm Automated Data Processing, where she’s on assignment. She’s surrounded by people with secrets, from Frank Darlington, hired by Dean Fritz Rolfe to conduct illegal electronic surveillance on theology professor Saul Newman, to Saul himself, whose affection for Zoe may be reciprocated. As a cyberwar looms on the horizon, Zoe’s detection code that attacks servers infected with a “spy virus” makes her a hot commodity among agencies like Homeland Security. It also puts her in danger with America’s enemies. Benzehabe (Semitic Tales: Accidental Hebrew for Christians, 2016, etc.) offers a multigenre tale, with espionage, romance, and historical references, including Edward Snowden, playing significant parts in the story. There are definite trademarks of a spy novel: one character is either a villain or an ally undercover, and Zoe is unmistakably in danger by the final act. But the most resounding moments are Zoe’s attempts at adapting, and not just in her new role as an apparent spy. As a Jewish woman raised by Muslims in Iran, she stands out whether or not she’s donning Muslim attire; people express surprise when she isn’t wearing her headscarf, or comment on her burka, which is actually a chador. There’s comic relief, meanwhile, in Zoe’s imperfect English, with her occasional slips genuinely funny (calling Saul a genital instead of a gentile); Benzehabe thankfully keeps them in moderation.

Riveting, even as the protagonist struggles more with losing her personal identity than espionage.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5353-5031-0

Page Count: 302

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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


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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