Gentill’s third (A Decline in Prophets, 2016, etc.) reads like a superior Western, alternating high adventure with social...

MILES OFF COURSE

A wealthy artist with a sideline in sleuthing is beset by danger in Depression-era Australia.

Rowland Sinclair is the youngest of three boys in the wealthy Sinclair family. Aubrey, the middle brother, was killed in the Great War, and Wilfred, Rowly’s very conservative oldest brother, runs the family businesses and disapproves of his bohemian kid brother, whose permanent houseguests—lower-class fellow artist Clyde Watson Jones, poet Milton Isaacs, and beautiful sculptress and model Edna Higgins—are all leftists. Soon after they learn that someone’s been kidnapping wealthy people, Rowly, Clyde, and Milton must fight off three intruders. Wilfred arrives with a request for Rowly to go up to cattle country, where one of their employees has vanished, hoping that his excursion will keep him away from danger. The man Harry Simpson, an Aboriginal, was supervising claims that he just went walkabout, but both Rowly and Wilfred are sure the man they have known for years is unlikely to have walked off. Rowly and his friends head for the High Country and right into trouble. Someone tries again to kidnap Rowly. At the guesthouse where they’re staying, Rowly meets an old school friend who claims someone is trying to kill him and Sarah Brent, a fiercely feminist writer who worked as governess to Rowly’s brothers before he was born. Rowly also meets Moran, who’s now in charge of the crew working the Sinclair cattle, and doesn’t take to him at all, especially when he opines that they needn’t bother to look for Harry. Saddling up and heading for the mountains, the group, including Sarah, runs into many more dangers before Rowly can unravel a host of problems from rustling to treason.

Gentill’s third (A Decline in Prophets, 2016, etc.) reads like a superior Western, alternating high adventure with social and political observations about prewar Australia.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4642-0685-6

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

THE WINTER GUEST

An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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