An ardently Southern fantasy thriller perfect for those looking for different kinds of heroes.



In this novel, a country sheriff, his eclectic family, and a boisterous deputy find themselves cast as the protectors of a centaur who appears in Kentucky’s horse country.

The wail of a dying panther in the woods behind their property is a dark portent for the Tolls. Sheriff Marshall Toll; his photographer son, Lucas; and their dopey but lovable 94-pound dog, Wayne Newton, investigate but find only questions about whether it was a human or beast who managed to fell the vicious creature. In a stall among their horses, an unexpected answer surfaces in the form of an injured centaur, her equine features joined with a haunting human beauty that reminds Marshall of his dead wife. To further complicate matters, the centaur is pregnant and being pursued by a perverse and murderous member of her own kind. Nicknamed Sugar by the family’s Southern matriarch, Grandma Eve, the centaur pulls her new caregivers close around her, aided by Lucas’ childhood friend, the beautiful yet rowdy Claire Lewis, a sheriff’s deputy. But Claire’s help brings complications: her washout ex-fiance, Lyle Gorris, who wants to expose Sugar to the world at the Kentucky Derby for fame and riches. Oravec’s entry into the low-fantasy genre uses the timeless, distinctive atmosphere of the rural South and Kentucky horse country—a world of TV reruns, aging farms, and Derby culture—to seamlessly integrate a Greek myth in a way that feels wondrous but not anachronistic. The centaur’s caretakers are the best kind of heroes—oddballs—Marshall’s country manliness a stark contrast to his son’s artistic sensitivity, with the men at the whim of the somehow both lively and lethargic Grandma Eve, who at one point bakes the centaur a pie. The attraction between Lucas and Claire adds humor and romance, their teasing laced with numerous pop-culture references. The novel occasionally leans a little too hard on stereotypes, such as uninteresting characterizations of foreigners or Claire’s self-doubts tied to her failure to have children. That said, the book is superb at ramping up the suspense and consistent in its insightful central theme, expressed early on by Claire, that those “who don’t belong generally don’t stray too far.”

An ardently Southern fantasy thriller perfect for those looking for different kinds of heroes.

Pub Date: July 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7339185-0-3

Page Count: 292


Review Posted Online: June 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.


A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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