Respectful and astute handling of serious social conflicts in a satisfying yarn.

Blue's Point

In Ferguson’s (The Thin Line Between Life and Death, 2013, etc.) thriller, a just-released convict and a journalist travel to a small Texas town where racial tension breeds contempt and violence.

Steve Cox returns to Blue’s Point 10 years after his conviction for killing a black man. The prison released him into the custody of old Jim Blue, whose family has owned Blue’s Point and neighboring Freedman’s Town for decades. At the same time, black magazine writer Mykeisha “Mike” Ali rides into town, planning to expose Blue’s Point as a cesspool of racism where the Klan and skinheads run rampant, threatening (and sometimes killing) black people. Both Steve and Mike, however, may be a hindrance to a diabolical plot already underway, and there are men willing to resort to murder to keep the two quiet. Ferguson firmly establishes the story’s racial theme. Mike, for instance, is attacked by skinheads simply for stopping to get gas, and it’s abundantly clear that Freedman’s Town is a community for the blacks unwelcome in Blue’s Point. Ferguson fortunately allows the theme to enhance the novel rather than drive it. Steve, for one, is invested in finding out who killed his father, who had been the Klan’s Grand Dragon, and he quickly learns that the murder that sent him to jail may have been a frame job. The villains, like the repugnant Tommy Saunder, reveal different levels of racism, some derived from ignorance, some from pure hatred. Steve is likable almost instantly when he saves a puppy from a discarded sack in a creek (courtesy of Tommy). Mike, too, is a laudable character. She’s nearly relegated into a supporting role in the suspenseful final act and a little too reliant on Steve while both are fleeing the Klan, but she’s admirably defiant even in the face of danger. Ferguson further augments his tale with drama—e.g., unresolved issues with Steve’s high school football pal, police chief Champ Lee—a hint of romance between Steve and Mike, and a surprising amount of mystery: whoever framed Steve for murder may very well be trying to do it again.

Respectful and astute handling of serious social conflicts in a satisfying yarn.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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