THE CAIN CONVERSION

Aellen, an always trend-conscious suspense-writer (Flash Point, 1991, etc.), outdoes himself here with a cleverly au courant—and engrossing—thriller that mixes three timely suspense themes: multiple-personality disorder (cf. William Diehl's Primal Fear and James Patterson's Along Came a Spider), deep-cover Soviet agents left out in the cold (cf. Bob Reiss's The Last Spy), and child abuse. The brunt of all this misery is Secret Service agent Bob Sullivan, whose world shatters when he gets a phone call saying, ``I see the president and he's been bad.'' In a trance, Bob walks into the Oval Office and levels his gun at the President. The agent comes to before shooting, but the damage is done and, soon after, Bob is suspended. In intercut scenes set mostly in Moscow, we learn the truth behind Bob's troubles. Born in Russia as Mischa Amenov, he was subjected to an experiment that split him into three: Mischa; Cain, a homicidal maniac; and Bob, an all-American created by raising the boy in a replica of a small Kansas town. Mischa/Cain/Bob was then inserted into the US as a time bomb to kill the President by releasing Cain when the trigger-words are spoken. Bob knows none of this, but he begins to catch on when he visits his ``real'' Kansas hometown and no one recognizes him. Another clue takes him to Russia, where he learns that his stepfather, avenging Bob's unfaithful mother, is trying to trigger Cain. Meanwhile, the panicky Soviets have sent an assassin after Bob, but the stepfather kills that killer and then kidnaps Bob's two children to force Cain's hand. The kids manage to signal their location to Bob, though, leading to the blood-and-fire-filled climax. Too complicated, but strong characters and fresh, smart—and fashionable—action make this Aellen's best since his debut, Red Eye (1988).

Pub Date: April 27, 1993

ISBN: 1-55611-348-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Donald Fine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1993

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

BAREFOOT

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.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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