Great bedtime reading for insomniacs and people willing to act like insomniacs just this once.

THE GOOD LIE

A vertiginous tale of serial kidnapping and murder that begins with a miracle and then heads sharply downhill.

There’s a reason Gwen Moore is known as the Doc of Death. The patients in her psychiatric practice have angry, volatile, or violent histories; they’re people who are afraid they’re going to hurt somebody. On the morning she fails to respond to messages from pharmacist John Abbott, who’s expressed mounting hostility toward his wife, Brooke, the couple are both found dead in their home, she stricken by a heart attack, he stabbed in the stomach. So Gwen, overwhelmed with guilt, is in no mood to celebrate the miraculous escape of Beverly High School senior Scott Harden, the seventh victim the Bloody Heart Killer has kidnapped and imprisoned and the only one to survive with his genitalia and his life. Even better, Scott quickly identifies his captor as BHS science teacher Randall Thompson. But as attorney Robert Kavin, whose son, Gabe, was the Bloody Heart Killer’s sixth victim, tells Gwen shortly after he picks her up at a bar and follows her home to bed, he’s so far from convinced that Thompson is the man who killed his son that he offers to defend him pro bono and asks Gwen to join his team as a consultant who can assemble a psychological profile that will prove that Thompson isn’t the murderer—unless of course it proves that he is. If the tale isn’t as tightly wound as Every Last Secret (2020), it’s a good deal more ambitious and twisty, and even readers who see some of its surprises coming will be alarmed and shocked by others.

Great bedtime reading for insomniacs and people willing to act like insomniacs just this once.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2016-9

Page Count: 269

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Combines disarming sensitivity to the nuances of the tangled relations among the characters with sledgehammer plotting.

FALSE WITNESS

A master of the no-holds-barred law enforcement thriller turns to legal intrigue, with shattering results.

A week before he’s to stand trial for the aggravated assault and rape of DataTel district manager Tammy Karlsen, car-dealership scion Andrew Tenant fires his lawyer and asks for a new one: Leigh Collier, a rising star at an Atlanta white-shoe firm. Originally baffled by the request, Leigh quickly realizes that her new client has a special reason to have asked for her: He’s recognized her from a magazine photo as the older sister of Callie, the babysitter who killed his father, Buddy Waleski, when his latest pedophile assault on her turned violent 23 years ago. In fact, the truth is even darker than that. Leigh was an active participant in the killing. Now she's determined to do everything she can to torpedo the defense she's preparing for Andrew, who’s accused of stabbing Tammy Karlsen in exactly the way Callie stabbed his father, while persuading both her client and her watchful senior partner that she’s doing her utmost to represent him. As she learns more and more particulars about the case and her client, Leigh realizes that her plan doesn’t go nearly far enough. Andrew is guilty of this assault and others, but he doesn’t just want her to get him off: He plans to blackmail her into complying with a potentially endless series of demands. How can she strike back at a monster who holds all the cards? Only by tapping into the depthless power of sisterhood with Callie, who’s descended into addiction but still loves Leigh with a ferocity that makes the pair of them as dangerous as the man who’s targeted them.

Combines disarming sensitivity to the nuances of the tangled relations among the characters with sledgehammer plotting.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-285809-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Eerie atmosphere isn’t enough to overcome an unsatisfying plot and sometimes-exasperating protagonist.

THE MAIDENS

A blend of psychological mystery and gothic thriller puts a psychotherapist in pursuit of a serial killer on the campus of Cambridge University.

The author’s second novel features a psychotherapist as its main character, as did his 2019 debut, The Silent Patient (whose main character makes an appearance here). This book’s protagonist is Mariana, who has a busy practice in London specializing in group therapy. At 36, she’s a widow, reeling from the drowning a year before of her beloved husband, Sebastian. She’s galvanized out of her fog by a call from her niece, Zoe, who was raised by Mariana and Sebastian after her parents died. Zoe is now studying at Cambridge, where Mariana and Sebastian met and courted. Zoe has terrible news: Her close friend Tara has been murdered, savagely stabbed and dumped in a wood. Mariana heads for Cambridge and, when the police arrest someone she thinks is innocent, starts her own investigation. She zeroes in on Edward Fosca, a handsome, charismatic classics professor who has a cultlike following of beautiful female students (which included Tara) called the Maidens, a reference to the cult of Eleusis in ancient Greece, whose followers worshipped Demeter and Persephone. Suspicious characters seem to be around every ivy-covered corner of the campus, though—an audacious young man Mariana meets on the train, one of her patients who has turned stalker, a porter at one of the college’s venerable houses, even the surly police inspector. The book gets off to a slow start, front-loaded with backstories and a Cambridge travelogue, but then picks up the pace and piles up the bodies. With its ambience of ritualistic murders, ancient myths, and the venerable college, the story is a gothic thriller despite its contemporary setting. That makes Mariana tough to get on board with—she behaves less like a modern professional woman than a 19th-century gothic heroine, a clueless woman who can be counted on in any situation to make the worst possible choice. And the book’s ending, while surprising, also feels unearned, like a bolt from the blue hurled by some demigod.

Eerie atmosphere isn’t enough to overcome an unsatisfying plot and sometimes-exasperating protagonist.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-30445-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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