A dark, theologically minded addition to the noir genre.

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DEACON'S WINTER

Burgraff’s debut thriller follows a Chicago minister as he investigates a violent conspiracy.

A man named Deacon Adelius wakes up in a hospital bed with a bullet in his shoulder and a police detective in the hallway. It turns out that a woman who’d sought asylum in Deacon’s church the night before has been murdered. Deacon is, in fact, a deacon—a lay Catholic minister—who’s unsure whether he wants to fully commit his life to serving God. The dead woman left her pocket-sized Bible in Deacon’s chambers, and it contains a coded message that may explain why she was killed. This all might have been a bit too much for an average deacon to handle, but not Deacon—he’s an Iraq War veteran and a former military police officer. More significantly, he’s an initiate of the Gabrians—a secret brotherhood that’s dedicated to purging the Roman Catholic Church of predatory priests. It’s soon revealed that the details of his life and the facts of the murder case are more intertwined than they initially appear; after all, in Chicago, the church, the law and the streets have long been known to overlap, and Deacon doesn’t shy away from drawing blood with his trusty aluminum baseball bat. He launches his own investigation into the murder because he knows he can’t trust the cops, but when his blood gets going, can he even trust himself? Burgraff writes in crisp, moody prose that makes this noir a satisfying escape (“My headlights illuminated streets that looked lonelier and dirtier than ever”). Although he doesn’t reinvent the genre, he does offer a uniquely Catholic revenge fantasy that should appeal to readers’ darker angels. Deacon’s investigation forces him to confront notions of forgiveness, punishment, justice and sin, and the book seems to say that even the most devout must rely on their own senses of righteousness. Some characters could have been explored more deeply, and some scenes might have benefited from greater attention to detail. Overall, however, Burgraff’s chilly depiction of Chicago and his sometimes-disturbing protagonist make this a memorable read with potential for future installments.

A dark, theologically minded addition to the noir genre.

Pub Date: May 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1458214911

Page Count: 356

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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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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