A strong, richly imagined brew for stouthearted readers, with hints of a series to follow.

THE LAST EXIT

A dystopian thriller whose heroine, aided by an infallible AI implant, seeks the malefactors behind a deliberately engineered epidemic.

Life in the 2030s is good in some ways (LSD is legal, men can give birth), bad in others (Miami Beach is no more, Disney has bought the National Park Service). The world of Detective Jennifer Lu of the Metro D.C. Police’s Elder Abuse Unit mainly revolves around two more personal poles: her mistreatment as a child by her monstrous mother, who’s now in a nursing home with dementia, and the triumph of the “65 and Out” movement, which requires euthanasia for all parents of that age whose childless children want to get “the treatment” that will make them Timeless, prolonging their lives for decades longer. A chance remark Jen and her synth implant, Chandler, overhear while she’s pursuing an assault case against White supremacist James O’Neil and witnessing a shooting involving Delmar Johnson Sr., a father who’s not ready to die for Delmar Johnson Jr., alerts her to a broader menace: the possibility that cases of rapid onset spongiform encephalitis, once virtually unheard of, are spiking because of a counterfeit treatment that promises Timeless life but kills its victims swiftly. Warned off the assault case by O’Neil’s Timeless father, 112-year-old billionaire Richard O’Neil, and shut down at every turn by her boss, Capt. Kyrie Brooks, Jen struggles to make headway against a monstrous conspiracy. All the while, Kaufman keeps the pot boiling by setting a series of illegal atrocities against the perfectly legal kind his world mostly accepts.

A strong, richly imagined brew for stouthearted readers, with hints of a series to follow.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64385-567-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

HOUR OF THE WITCH

A Puritan wife shocks her community and risks her life to file for divorce in 1662 Boston.

For more than five years, Mary, age 24, has been married to Thomas, 45, a prosperous miller. Thomas has been physically and sexually abusive, always taking care that there are no witnesses. He castigates Mary’s intelligence, telling her she has “white meat” for brains. The marriage is childless, drawing community suspicion to Mary. When she can’t hide bruises on her face, she lies about their provenance. The behavior, she tells herself, only occurs when Thomas is “drink-drunk.” The coverup continues until, cold sober, Thomas drives a fork into Mary’s hand, breaking bones. She flees to her parents’ home and files for divorce, which is allowed but only if grounds can be proven. Forks are a major motif: Not merely newfangled “cutlery” which Mary’s father, a shipping entrepreneur, hopes to profit from importing, but miniature pitchforks viewed by the Puritans as “Devil’s tines.” The forks, as well as other clues—a mysterious pestle, a pentagram etched on a door frame—are used to counter Mary’s compelling, but unwitnessed, claims of cruelty with insinuations of witchcraft. Divorce denied, Mary must return to the marital home and resort to ever more drastic expedients in her quest for freedom. Mary comes from privilege, and her parents clearly care about her. (Unlike the divorce magistrates, they don’t believe she injured her hand by falling on a tea kettle spout.) That they allow her return to Thomas to avoid witchcraft charges defies plausibility—death at Thomas’ hands seems a more immediate prospect, and her family wealth affords many other options. The charges come anyway—timed for maximum melodrama. The language, salted liberally with thee and thou, feels period-authentic. The colonists’ impact on nearby Native tribes is not Bohjalian’s primary concern here, but the Hobson’s choice facing women in Puritan society is starkly delineated.

Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54243-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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