An often rousing tale with a many-layered protagonist.



A contract killer’s ex-boss is determined to see her dead in Stern’s (Hope in Small Doses, 2015, etc.) thriller.

Suzanne Brooks’ future was set in 1978 when she sought revenge for her roommate, Greta, who was beaten, nearly to death, by a drug dealer. Just out of the Army, Suzanne had the marksmanship to take out Greta’s assailant but she also killed a second man who worked for crime lord Victor Kemp. After Victor tracks Suzanne down, he gives her no choice but to become his employee after finishing college—a corporate security manager in Manhattan who also does work as an assassin. Twenty-five years later, she finally escapes this arrangement to be with Brian Foster, the man whom she secretly married more than 20 years before and with whom she had a son, Michael. Victor eventually finds Suzanne and her family in hiding, triggering an explosive confrontation that ends with the crime lord’s presumed death. But as the Fosters resume their lives in the United Kingdom, Victor is in seclusion, awaiting his chance at retribution. While Suzanne begins to suspect that he’s alive, danger comes her way, including from someone who’s targeting her on Victor’s behalf. She may have to draw on her old job skills again to protect her family. Stern takes a curious approach to her story by providing few details about Suzanne’s hits, focusing instead on her post-retirement life and how she grapples with questions of identity. It’s unhurried but perceptive, as Suzanne muses on whether she would have been a killer without Victor’s coercion. Suzanne’s and Victor’s back stories effectively amplify both characters: Suzanne’s mom kicked her out of the house at 15, for instance, and Victor has two illegitimate sons. Although much of the tale is concerned with Suzanne’s everyday circumstances (such as Michael’s engagement party), looming violence is always evident. The early plot twists are predictable, but later turns in the smashing final act come at a searing pace.

An often rousing tale with a many-layered protagonist.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018


Page Count: 301

Publisher: Ruthenia Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2017

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


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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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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