A busy, often histrionic drama with an awkwardly rendered religious message.

WHO SINNED?

Finding both joy and sorrow in a complicated love triangle, three lifelong friends raise a child only to lose him years later to an unexpected killer in Jeffrey’s (Gems in the Cracks, 2008) latest novel.

Following the sudden murder of his father, a young John Richards finds soul mates in friends Gail and Tania, who help him cope with his loss. John’s mother calls them the “strays” and grows to consider the girls part of her family. But John—in love with both—must ultimately choose one over the other. In the end, he marries Gail. Years later, however, pained by her friend’s multiple miscarriages, Tania offers to be the surrogate mother for their child. “It was the solution, the only solution, and everyone was too happy and excited, too inebriated with hope, to entertain any notion of ulterior consequences.” As one might expect, old feelings and attractions emerge as John watches Tania carry his baby. A son is born, and Gail and John set out to raise a family. Sean, in some ways the child of all three of them, grows up healthy and happy, and Tania finds love with a successful surgeon. But after Sean goes missing before his big soccer game, he’s found dead, and his parents are in shock: “John lay on his back, looked at the ceiling with hope….Gail looked at the ceiling and saw no hope, just a darkness, a void that reflected the void and emptiness in her soul.” The novel builds tension by following the three confused and heartbroken characters, each of them struggling to understand their faith and their friendship. “God, Lady? God?” Sean’s killer asks Gail from his jail cell. “What God would let three innocent kids die?” Unfortunately, the Christian message is expressed via contrived spiritual metaphors and hackneyed existential dilemmas. For example, “John was still enwrapped in fancy…when the lights came on and it seemed like the morning of creation, not in brightness, but in splendour, as only the Master might have done it.” Spiritual overtones aside, the author paints a compelling—if sometimes melodramatic—picture of three humans coping with some of the worst tragedies life can offer.

A busy, often histrionic drama with an awkwardly rendered religious message.

Pub Date: March 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1492146827

Page Count: 388

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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