A light tale that will appeal to fans of the cozy mystery genre.

ICE CREAM WAR

In Janson’s (Mal Practice, 2013, etc.) mystery set in small-town Nebraska, an ice cream shop owner reluctantly assists her business rival when a dead body is found in his store.

This novel is a competent, cozy mystery of the dream-job genre, in which a sleuth is reluctantly drawn into an investigation when she’d rather be pursuing her desired career. Here, Mary Burke, who graduated from law school but never took the bar exam, spends her days trying to sell ice cream in her small hometown—that is, when she isn’t seething over the antics of Jeremiah “Jerry” Wilson, a Southern California surfer and slacker who’s returned to town to keep an eye on his crazy Aunt May. Unfortunately, Jerry has also chosen to reopen his ice cream parlor, but he isn’t in it for the money—instead, he gives the stuff away. When one of Jerry’s ex-roommates from Huntington Beach, California—the decidedly unsavory Angie—turns up dead in his store, Mary can’t help putting her legal mind to work to help the hapless man out of his fix. The predictable conflict between Midwest small-town values and the presumed sex-drugs-and-rock ’n’ roll lifestyle of Left Coast denizens is played for laughs; Jerry’s apparent stoner vibe, for example, turns out to be more Zen than zonked, and when he talks about selling grass, he actually means sod. However, his blissed-out naïveté can wear thin after a while. There’s some effective nastiness afoot, however, regarding roomies that Jerry tried, and failed, to pull out of destructive lifestyles, and the Nebraskans who hide venality under a wholesome facade. Underneath the high jinks, though, this is a mystery that plays fair and relies on the accumulation and analysis of evidence—rather than characters running around frantically until the solution falls into their lap, as is too often the case in mysteries of this ilk.

A light tale that will appeal to fans of the cozy mystery genre.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990742401

Page Count: 258

Publisher: JM Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

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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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