A murder story with some clever twists.

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MURDER IN MEMORY

A debut novel takes readers to the campus of a small Southern college where a serial killer lurks.

The opening is eerily familiar—readers are with the unnamed killer at night as he hides in the bushes outside the college library and quickly dispatches student Heather Conley. Later he will do the same to another student, the luckless Millie Darnell. The case falls to Grady Noland, the town’s police chief, a capable enough fellow though hardly a Sherlock Holmes. Other players are Jon Evans, a mousy English professor; his wife, Doris; and Dr. Henry Andrews, the college psychologist who is central to the plot. So, who’s the culprit? There are few clues, and the college just wishes the whole embarrassing thing would go away. Meanwhile, the Evanses’ marriage is on the rocks, and Doris begins an affair with hunky cop David Parker. Soon they are meeting at his trailer for “lunch.” Jon manages to become a default suspect thanks in part to Doris’ implications. Then, midway through, there is a surprising development: readers find out who the killer is. But of course Grady is still in the dark, though he is beginning to doubt that Jon is the murderer. The key plot device here is hypnosis, something Henry is quite adept at. Jon slips under willingly because his life is such a mess and the technique affords some relief. But the psychologist harbors a sinister scheme involving hypnosis and the murder case. And Henry pulls it off—until Grady starts trying to piece together the truth. While some elements of this story are fairly standard, including the setup, Thorne provides some effective twists. The author, a psychologist, has put his experience to excellent use, deftly exploiting the hypnosis gimmick. He also has a subtle way with characters, delivering telling details, as when he shows poor obese Millie, fresh from Henry’s office, losing—incredibly quickly—her resolve to eat less or when Thorne depicts wimpy Jon beginning another hopeless day. The author also paints an effective portrait of Doris as a shallow, self-absorbed shrew. But some plot turns, such as the final scene, ask a bit too much from the audience. There is, however, an ingenious and somehow fitting denouement concerning the woebegone Jon. Readers should get a satisfying kick out of this whodunit.

A murder story with some clever twists.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5006-0366-3

Page Count: 214

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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