A first-rate mystery makes this a series standout, even if the titular protagonist splits his hero status with others.

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Wine Into Water

A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL

Keating’s (Murderer’s Row, 2015, etc.) latest in his thriller series finds combat-trained pastor Stephen Grant immersed in murder, espionage, and counterfeit wines.

After dropping $405,000 on four bottles of wine, Larry Banner’s worried they might be fakes so good they fooled a master sommelier and wine columnist. He gets in touch with Lutheran pastor Stephen Grant, his best student back when Banner schooled CIA operatives in wine and poker. Grant, a former SEAL as well, has an old CIA partner/lover who can help (while keeping mum to preserve Banner’s rep)—Paige Caldwell, now running her own security firm. The FBI is concurrently working the murder of restaurateur/retired Fed Kenneth Osborne and wife, Barbara, whose Osborne Tavern featured one of New York’s most celebrated wine lists. Agents Trent Nguyen and Rich Noack, aware that Osborne had trouble with counterfeit wines, believe the crime scene was staged to look like a robbery by professionals who were after something else. Eventually there’s murder on Caldwell and Grant’s side of the investigation, too, accompanied by explosive strikes against wine-storing facilities. A tie to the ex-agents’ decades-old case has Grant still blaming himself for a thief who got away. But he hopes to ensnare the guilty party this time around, and the upcoming WineCon could be a gathering of both wineries and potential murderers. The recurring protagonist shares the spotlight with many characters who appeared in preceding novels. This narrative approach, however, proves beneficial. To begin with, the story, though boasting the series’ now-prerequisite action sequences, shifts most of its attention to the mystery. Keating establishes genuine suspects: seems all winemakers, from the respected to the dubious, are under attack, so those culpable aren’t easily detectable. Grant undoubtedly shines in confrontations with baddies as well as lighter subplots: scenes behind the pulpit and his visible awkwardness whenever Caldwell and his wife, Jennifer, are together. But it’s the search for killers that makes the biggest impact, and the pastor can’t take full credit; it’s a team effort, with characters (i.e., Grant’s old CIA pals) that are just as essential.

A first-rate mystery makes this a series standout, even if the titular protagonist splits his hero status with others.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5152-7495-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

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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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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