There’s an attempt at profundity here that falls flat, leaving instead a story we’ve seen before of a pretty girl who winds...

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EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE

A teenage girl’s murder splits apart a rural Minnesota community, uncovering not only her secrets, but also those of the town.

Like so many teenagers living in small towns, 18-year-old Hattie Hoffman wanted out of Pine Valley. Specifically, she wanted to go to New York City, where she envisioned acting on Broadway. Instead, she ended up stabbed to death in a barn weeks before graduation after a rave performance as Lady Macbeth in that Scottish play. Mejia, making her adult debut after The Dragon Keeper (2012), a book for teens, alternates perspective, building up to the day Hattie dies in Hattie’s own voice and in the days and weeks after, from the points of view of the cookie-cutter town sheriff and the obvious suspect, Hattie’s English teacher, as he stumbles through his predictably crumbling marriage. Hattie is a master manipulator, so much so that it’s often difficult to believe she’s only 18; when the flirtation with teacher Peter Lund, which begins online, blossoms into a full-blown affair, it’s frustrating that the adult appears to be the one for whom the author is trying to elicit more sympathy rather than the high school student with whom he's having sex. Sheriff Del Goodman functions less as a character and more as a vehicle to move the story along: someone has to solve Hattie’s murder, so it may as well be him. In the year leading up to her death, as Hattie prepares her grand exit, her death seems inevitable not owing to the way she lived, but because Mejia stays so far within what are safe narrative boundaries.

There’s an attempt at profundity here that falls flat, leaving instead a story we’ve seen before of a pretty girl who winds up dead and the usual cast of suspects who may have killed her.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2342-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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