A formulaic tale about the dangers of temptation.



A mother beleaguered by stress—and frustrated aspirations—risks it all for an illicit affair in this debut novel.

Alexandra Hoffman’s life is a hectic one. She has three rambunctious kids, one of whom, Ryan, struggles with severe anxiety and attention deficit disorder, and likely falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. Her husband, Jason, is consumed by his corporate job, and his absenteeism has taken a toll on their marriage. Alex’s 40th birthday is fast approaching, and she’s dispirited by unrealized ambitions—she planned to become a novelist and now keeps an anonymous blog detailing her travails as a full-time mom (“Yesterday, I stopped by the Back-to-School Parent Breakfast and made myself a tall cup of Starbucks and shoved a pre-made egg sandwich on seven-grain bread into the pocket of my jacket and left. I didn’t stay for sign-in or icebreakers or speeches”). She looks up an old flame, Matt Daniels, with whom she had an intense romantic affair—they lived together for a year in London. She accidentally friends him on Facebook and, against her better judgment, meets him for dinner. Against anyone’s better judgment, she returns to his hotel room for a glass of water, and they are both overcome by the magnetic draw of their attraction to each other. A torrid affair begins. Finn jumps among the first-person narrative, snippets from Alex’s blog, and flashbacks to her youthful romance with Matt. The author realistically sketches a portrait of a haggard mother, pummeled by relentless obligations and unceremoniously jettisoned dreams. In addition, her account of Ryan’s tribulations as a teen addled with cognitive dysfunction is expertly produced. But the story is at best a familiar one, and maybe shopworn, a problem worsened by the weight of clichés. Consider Alex’s description of her life coach, Lark: “Her dark purple top, purple yoga pants, and tattooed arm lent her the aura of some kind of modern-day shaman.” The pace of the tale is lumbering, and one of its driving premises—that Alex could be a great writer if only she’d believe in herself—is never evidenced by any of the samples shared with the reader, which are unspectacular even by the standards of the blogosphere. While Alex’s frustration is expressively detailed by Finn, the plot is too stale to grip the reader’s attention for long, and the characters too threadbare.

A formulaic tale about the dangers of temptation. 

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2017


Page Count: 263

Publisher: Inkspell Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 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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