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As usual, the dead are just more interesting than the living. Something to look forward to.

Another 15 rounds for Virginia chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her well-placed enemies past and present.

Why is her old law school roommate, Judge Annie Chilton, allowing Alexandria’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Bose Flagler to beat up Scarpetta on the witness stand? Normally the state’s CME would be on the prosecutor’s side, but this time Scarpetta is determined to testify that her predecessor, the late Dr. Bailey Carter, who had rapid-onset dementia, mistakenly called beauty queen April Tupelo’s drowning murder, leading to the arrest of her live-in Romeo, Gilbert Hooke. Even so, Chilton’s rulings seem consistently heedless of Scarpetta’s formidable reputation and personal feelings, as if the judge were distracted by something. Maybe she’s having previsions about her sister, CIA press secretary Rachael Stanwyck, who’s soon found dead in the kitchen of the judge’s family estate, rendering the introductory case moot to everyone but the protesters who attack Scarpetta, bellowing “JUSTICE FOR APRIL!” and providing the media with more anti-Scarpetta grist. Certainly Cornwell seems to forget about it in her eagerness to linger over the diabolical, state-of-the-art murder weapon by which the judge’s sister met her doom and to evoke the endless infighting among Scarpetta, her nemesis, Virginia health commissioner Dr. Elvin Reddy, and his minions. A second (or is it a third?) murder provides the basis for more of the post-mortem set pieces that make fans of this long-running series salivate, and it’s especially gratifying to see Scarpetta wring important evidence from a dust bunny. But the forensics mean more to Cornwell than the suspects, and the ideal reader of this installment won’t care any more than she does whodunit.

As usual, the dead are just more interesting than the living. Something to look forward to.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-2516-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

The loss of her police officer father and the discovery of an abandoned car in a local lake raise chilling questions regarding a young woman’s family history.

When Hazel Sharp returns to her hometown of Mirror Lake, North Carolina, for her father’s memorial, she and the other townspeople are confronted by a challenging double whammy: As they’re grieving the loss of beloved longtime police officer Detective Perry Holt, a disturbing sight appears in the lake, whose waterline is receding because of an ongoing drought—an old, unidentifiable car, which has likely been lurking there for years. Hazel temporarily leaves her Charlotte-based building-renovation business in the capable hands of her partners and reconnects with her brothers, Caden and Gage; her Uncle Roy; her old fling and neighbor, Nico; and her schoolfriend, Jamie, now a mother and married to Caden. Tiny, relentless suspicions rise to the metaphorical surface along with that waterlogged vehicle: There have been a slew of minor break-ins; two people go missing; and then, a second abandoned car is discovered. The novel digs deeper into Hazel’s family history—her father was a widow when he married Hazel’s mother, who later left the family, absconding with money and jewels—and Miranda, a consummate professional when it comes to exposing the small community tensions that naturally arise when people live in close proximity for generations, exposes revelation after twisty revelation: “Everything mattered disproportionately in a small town. Your success, but also your failure. Everyone knows might as well have been our town motto.”

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781668010440

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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