A promising novel that skillfully uncovers obstacles for its protagonist to overcome.

THE HOLLOW

In this debut thriller, a repressed incident mars a young woman’s life for years.

In 2009, Ellie Frites is a 20-something in a dead-end customer-service job at a tech company who spends her downtime drinking with a handful of friends. She can’t seem to sustain a relationship with a man, although she does have a new boyfriend named Tim. She’s also still grieving her beloved father’s death, due to cancer, which happened more than a decade ago. Ellie’s humdrum existence is shaken up when she begins having upsetting visions of her middle-school days, set in a rundown part of Marshside, Massachusetts, known as The Hollow. The visions specifically involve Lauren Vine and Maxine Lang, two of her former school friends, with whom Ellie lost touch when her best friend, Sarah, arrived from private school. Now, she can’t remember anything about what happened to them: “Did they move? Switch schools?” When Ellie fails to get any more information from either Sarah or her own estranged mother, she decides to go see psychologist Elizabeth Rollins. The doctor’s hypnotherapy helps Ellie to unlock repressed memories, which may put her and those she loves, including Tim, in danger. In this well-paced narrative, Barrell explores the relationship between Ellie’s newfound recollections and her present-day existence. For example, the character considers herself to be a pathetic loser when, in actuality, it’s clear that her past trauma has inhibited her. Once Barrell reveals the monstrous crime at the center of Ellie’s story, readers will understand why Ellie’s mind blocked it out—and in this novel, what you can’t see can hurt you. The author also shows the subtle, positive changes in the main character’s life as she slowly discovers what’s been haunting her. The supporting cast members, both at Ellie’s work and in her private life, are equally believable. All told, Barrell’s admirable debut is an engaging journey into a troubled mind.

A promising novel that skillfully uncovers obstacles for its protagonist to overcome.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5432-4858-6

Page Count: 274

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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