A fast-paced, multilayered story of seaside murders separated by three centuries.

When Two Women Die

AN HISTORICAL NOVELLA OF MARBLEHEAD, TELLING OF TWO MURDERS WHICH HAPPENED THERE, 301 YEARS APART

Two women murdered in Marblehead, Massachusetts, 301 years apart—one in 1690 and the other in 1991—would seem to have nothing in common, but Goodwin ties both together in her novella.

Goodwin (Atlantis, 2006) deftly toggles between both murders. The first involves an unknown English woman who was taken ashore by pirates in 1690 and savagely abused and murdered. The second occurred in 1991; a woman went for an afternoon’s sail with a neighbor who ended up killing her. In both tales, the author establishes a strong undercurrent of tension and horror, which upsets the daily activities—breadmaking in the 17th century and filmmaking in the 20th—of this normally placid coastal town. Marblehead is a palpable presence here; Goodwin infuses the book with the maritime influences of the area without turning it into a travelogue. Supernatural elements, used sparingly but effectively, occur in both storylines. In one, a character has prophetic dreams, and in the other, a woman can see into the future. Occasionally, and this is a minor quibble, Goodwin relies too heavily on dialect in the dialogue, such as: “Oooh, never will Lizzie ‘low my rise in w’ her’n, now t’is sticks n’ stones to break thy teeth on.” It makes the characters sometimes hard to understand. Usually, however, Goodwin’s prose is sharp and descriptive, invoking vivid word pictures: “Karen stepped over her, agile and light as a cat, with her long, coppery legs in frayed Patagonias.” Although it frequently switches back and forth between the narratives, the novel coheres. The result is a suspenseful book in which both stories hurtle to their tragic conclusions.

A fast-paced, multilayered story of seaside murders separated by three centuries.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615587240

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Plum Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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