By the time the novel belatedly reaches the big reveal, the reader has passed the point of caring.

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Two men walk into a pub, and they drink and talk until they can’t do either for much longer.

Much of Irish novelist Doyle's latest is made up of dialogue, unattributed, as recounted by a man in his late middle age named Davy. He's joined by Joe, a drinking buddy from his Dublin youth, though decades and geography have left some distance between them. Davy and his wife have long lived in England. He returns (alone) to visit his widowed father in Dublin, where Joe still lives. Neither of them drinks much anymore, but now that they're reunited, they decide to do it up like old times. As their talk gets more drunken, sloppier and circular, those old times are very much on Joe’s mind, because he recently left his wife for Jessica, a woman he had first met in those long-ago pubs with Davy and hadn’t seen for almost four decades. So they talk of who they were and who they are, their marriages and their families, since neither knows the other’s much at all. In some ways, they no longer know each other well. Yet they know each other better than anyone else does, as the much younger men they once were. And perhaps still are? As Joe confesses and Davy badgers him, Davy also shares with the reader at least some of what’s on his mind: his own marriage and something he doesn't want to share with Joe. He keeps checking his phone for a call that doesn’t come. They keep ordering another round, pints that neither of them really wants. “The drink is funny, though, isn’t it?” says Joe. “You see things clearly but then you can’t get at the words to express them properly.” Whatever clarity they are finding isn't all that clear to the reader, who is beginning to find their company as exhausting and interminable as they do. It seems that Davy is hiding something, burying something, doing his best to escape something from which there is perhaps no escape. Eventually, they have to leave.

By the time the novel belatedly reaches the big reveal, the reader has passed the point of caring.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-8045-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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