Although the Grand Guignol climax won’t surprise genre veterans, Vernon creates a fleet, suffocating sense of velvet...

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WHEN YOU FIND ME

Immunologist Vernon’s fiction debut is a Southern Gothic steeped in politics, adultery, family dysfunction, and murder.

Christmas Eve finds alcoholic heiress Gray Godfrey, who’s returned for one of her infrequent pilgrimages to Piper Point, the South Carolina home of her imperious mother, in the arms of Jacob Wilcox, an old friend-with-benefits who smooches her up on the dance floor at Ruby’s and finds his kiss returned with interest. Of all the scandalized spectators on hand to watch the show, Gray’s husband, Paul, a clean-energy lobbyist with political aspirations, is the most shaken. Before he can do more than scream at his wife briefly, she blacks out, and when she awakens on Christmas morning, she’s alone in bed, and Detective Nina Palmer, of the Elizabeth County Sheriff’s Office, reports that Paul’s car has been found abandoned along a highway. Gray, her recently divorced sister, and her lawyer cousin do their best to deflect gossip that finds in Paul Godfrey’s disappearance an echo of real-life South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s absence while he was reportedly hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2009. As Gray’s experiments with sobriety return decidedly mixed results, she receives a voicemail message from someone calling herself Annie who wants a hush-hush meeting to talk about Paul. Instead of showing up, however, Annie follows up her first contact with a series of increasingly intrusive, disturbing, and frankly mocking messages that threaten Gray’s hold on both her husband and her sanity.

Although the Grand Guignol climax won’t surprise genre veterans, Vernon creates a fleet, suffocating sense of velvet nightmare as he races through the list of all the taboos readers would love to believe every wealthy, politically connected Southern family has violated.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68331-749-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

THE SILENT PATIENT

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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