An engagingly written mystery featuring art, glamour, sex, love, and murder.

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In Halt’s debut mystery, an art gallery co-owner is sent a painting depicting her slain in a bathtub—and then the scene plays out for real.

In 1980s Cologne, Germany, American Amanda Lee and German Marlene Eichler own the Lee Eichler Gallery. Glamorous Marlene laments her divorce from prominent architect Wolf Eichler, with whom she remains friends. However, she also enjoys high-end shopping, posh salon visits, and sex with wealthy, married art collectors and pickups at questionable clubs. A major show is about to open at the gallery, featuring the death-inspired works of leading artist Klaus Kruger. Art critic Dieter Becker works with Marlene to promote it, and he feels entitled to kickbacks from gallery sales for his efforts. Amanda refuses, infuriating the critic, who hides a dark past. Then Amanda finds Marlene slashed to death in a bathtub, and it turns out that Marlene had received a mysterious package at the gallery—one that contained a painting of her own future murder. Kommissar Fredrich Grutzmacher and his underling Ernst Rudolf investigate both Amanda and Wolf as potential suspects. Readers will find this chilling story hard to put down, as the crimes (yes, plural) are gruesome and the suspects, numerous. The author, who once lived in Germany, captures the edgy atmosphere of that country’s art and club scenes in the ’80s, and she offers richly developed characters along the way; at one point, for instance, the entitled Marlene insists that a married lover appear with her in public at an expensive restaurant—where she then orders a pricey bottle of champagne. Indeed, luxury is everywhere in vivid descriptions of cashmere and silk attire, high-performance sports cars, and fine wine and food. The pacing is also well calibrated as the action moves from scares in the dark to sensual trysts.

An engagingly written mystery featuring art, glamour, sex, love, and murder.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62694-887-7

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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


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.


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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