A promising start to a family saga about ordinary people.

TIDELANDS

The inaugural volume of Gregory’s (Dark Tracks, 2018, etc.) new series is set during the English civil war.

A wise woman is at the center of this launch. Alinor, an herbalist and midwife, is reminiscent of Jacquetta (The Lady of the Rivers, 2011), another Gregory protagonist, foundress of the Woodville dynasty of beautiful and resourceful women who figure in the War of the Roses and attract accusations of witchcraft. In 1648, the risk of such accusations is even higher, since Alinor lacks Jacquetta’s noble lineage and because an army of Puritan Christians led by Oliver Cromwell has dethroned King Charles, now confined on the Isle of Wight. Extensive atmospherics slow the action but convey a strong sense of place—the Sussex tidelands, where, on Sealsea Island, Alinor earns a sparse living selling herbs and practicing the healing arts. She also invites scrutiny because her abusive husband disappeared months before. Detail abounds about the 17th-century economy of a small island: The local lord, Sir William, still holds sway thanks to a deal with Parliament, and his tenants each have their trade. Alinor’s brother Ned, a staunch anti-royalist, runs the family ferry business, her daughter Alys, also beautiful, works for the miserly Mrs. Miller, whose family controls the tide-driven mill. Everyone makes their own ale. When Alinor meets James, a disguised Catholic priest who has been summoned by Sir William, her fortunes change for both good and ill. James, a spy from the exiled English court in France, is embroiled in a plot to rescue King Charles. With James’ help, Alinor’s son Rob is assured of a brighter future under Sir William’s patronage. Alinor and the handsome James are instantly drawn to one another, and his vow of chastity falls to the wayside, with rather unpleasant results once he is called back to France. There are chilling descriptions of what Puritans in power are prepared to do to women who deviate from social norms—or merely incite envy. Once the jeopardy accelerates, this is Gregory par excellence.

A promising start to a family saga about ordinary people.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8715-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

PRETTY THINGS

The daughter of a grifter plans to fund her mother’s cancer treatment with a revenge con.

Rich people suck, don’t they? Nina Ross found this out in her adolescence, when her romance with Benny Liebling was broken up by his status-obsessed, old-money father, who found them screwing in the guest cottage of the family’s Lake Tahoe estate. Back then, Nina had a future—but she’s since followed her con-artist mother into the family business with the help of a handsome blue-eyed Irish confederate named Lachlan. “Here’s my rule,” Nina tells him. “Only people who have too much, and only people who deserve it.” Of course, he agrees. “We take only what we need.” With her art history background, Nina is usually able to target a few expensive antiques they can lift without the rich dopes even noticing they’re gone. But now that Nina's mother is hovering at death’s door without health insurance, she’s going after the $1 million in cash Benny mentioned was in his father’s safe all those years ago. So back to Lake Tahoe it is. The older Lieblings are dead, and Benny’s in the bin, so it’s his sister Vanessa Liebling who is the target of the complicated caper. Vanessa is a terribly annoying character—“I couldn’t tell you how I went from a few dozen Instagram followers to a half-million. One day, you’re uploading photos of your dog wearing sunglasses; and the next you’re begin flown to Coachella on a private jet with four other social media It Girls…”—but, in fact, you’ll hate everyone in this book. That is surely Brown’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2017, etc.) intention as she’s the one making them natter on this way. She also makes them vomit much more than is normal, whether it’s because they’re poisoning each other or because they’re just so horrified by each other’s behavior. Definitely stay to see how it all turns out.

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-47912-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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