Quick pacing and a satisfyingly complicated plot make this mystery a lively read.



Intrigues large and small abound in this debut historical novel set in a late 19th-century Florida boardinghouse.

Widowed Emma Wakefield, the proprietress of a boardinghouse, receives some deeply upsetting news. Her cousin Andrew Langley, a Secret Service agent investigating a counterfeiting ring in Atlanta, has been found dead; he was headed to their home in St. Augustine. Emma is devastated, as is Andrew’s fiancee, Clarissa. But when a textile salesman named Samuel Thompson arrives at Wakefield House claiming to be an old friend of Andrew’s, Emma’s suspicions are aroused. He doesn’t have any cloth samples with him; he sweeps Clarissa off her feet by taking her sailing; and Emma finds a bag of Andrew’s belongings in Samuel’s room that he glibly passes off as his own. And stranger still, after Samuel tells the women a tragic story about his dead wife, Rebecca, a Rebecca Thompson shows up in St. Augustine, imperiously demanding to see her husband. But as a businesswoman, Emma has her own troubles—a boarder’s jewelry and scarves vanish; her accounting of Wakefield House’s finances doesn’t quite add up; and her serving maid Henny develops a strange infatuation with Samuel. Through this tangled web of duplicity, Emma must navigate the poorer, seedier side of St. Augustine, facing unexplained deaths, gambling, and drunkenness to figure out why Andrew died and what’s going on in Wakefield House. Suzanne leads readers through her complex, diverting plot at a quick clip, telling her tale through the eyes of multiple characters, often when they’re doing something illicit. The technique adds drama, to be sure, but it also detracts from the fun of a whodunit because the reader knows exactly who did it. While Emma is a fully imagined protagonist—she’s poised and confident, treating her serving staff as equals—the other characters are noticeably flatter. The ones doing the titular deceiving are drunks, poisoners, and thieves without a single redeeming quality; the destitute children are too waifish and innocent. And one wishes the author would lavish more details on the fascinating, underappreciated time and place she sets her entertaining story, beyond the clumps of palmetto trees and gopher turtle stew that add subtle color.

Quick pacing and a satisfyingly complicated plot make this mystery a lively read.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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