A dark, theologically minded addition to the noir genre.

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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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