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EXTREME VETTING

A remarkable cast sparks this incisive, riveting tale of intolerance.

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An immigration lawyer and her latest client both face injustice and a host of menaces in Arama’s debut thriller.

Seattle-based attorney Laura Holban reluctantly takes on a new case despite her hefty workload. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have just arrested undocumented Guatemalan immigrant Emilio Ramirez, who has lived in Washington state with a happy family and a steady job for more than two decades. But he’s now up against Seattle’s chief ICE prosecutor, Mason Waltman, who seems determined to eject him from the country. Laura’s burden is to prove that her client shouldn’t be deported, a task that is complicated by a false assault claim leveled at Emilio. Someone appears to really want Emilio back in Guatemala; his family’s home is broken into, and Laura is physically intimidated in an effort to get her to drop the case. Suddenly, questions arise about the validity of Laura’s own green card, which she received when she immigrated to the United States from Romania 18 years earlier. Laura worries that Emilio will be killed if he returns to his native country, a sad fate that’s befallen other clients of hers—but the greatest danger for her, Emilio, and his family may be much closer to home. Arama’s taut narrative brims with tension and indelible characters. The author is sensitive to discrimination (“When a native speaker makes a mistake, it’s because they’re tired or distracted. When an immigrant makes the same mistake, it’s because they’re dumb”) and microaggressions: Several people make note of Laura’s accent, as if she’s a tourist in the country she’s made her home. The story derives suspense from unpredictable threats courtesy of ICE, crooked lawyers, and the mysterious figure targeting Emilio. Most of Laura’s fight takes place outside the courtroom, where only a few scenes are set. Violence crops up in the final act, though it’s nominal, and the ending packs a mean dramatic punch.

A remarkable cast sparks this incisive, riveting tale of intolerance.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781947845381

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ooligan Press

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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