Understated mystery concentrating on a morally ambiguous legal process—and riveting throughout.

Exonerated

In Dymond’s debut thriller, New York cops fight to bring a murderer to justice when the victim is a fellow officer’s sister.

The murder and mutilation of a Schenectady County woman unnerves local police. She was, after all, Officer Ed Roletti’s baby sister, Mary. Cops question friends and former boyfriends, but it’s evidence at the scene that narrows the suspects. Three of four sets of prints—the fourth unknown—lead to Ed and a couple of ex-lovers. With Capt. Jim Pollack refusing to believe Ed’s the killer and one ex in jail—that leaves only Chucky Dericardo. Some, like Detective Bill Watkins, aren’t convinced that Chucky’s their guy, but most at the police department see enough to justify arresting him for murder. District Attorney Franklin Dorey believes a conviction could improve his career prospects, but he’s understandably on edge when learning that Chucky hired notorious criminal defense lawyer John Upton. An ensuing trial, with no side dominating the other, ends with a jury’s decision, but it’s far from over. Seven years later, a SWAT raid uncovers something that causes everyone to reexamine Chucky’s case. What follows is a number of surprises, including another trial or two and more murder. The novel starts as a procedural before merging into a legal thriller. It’s a subdued mystery, thanks primarily to the plot’s hefty amount of realism. No incriminating clue, for example, points to a probable killer, and the arrest of Chucky is via process of elimination. Chucky, too, may be a viable suspect, but nothing ties him directly to the body. Told from multiple perspectives, there’s consequently no real protagonist; while a lack of viewpoint from Chucky keeps his guilt/innocence a secret but affords him no chance for sympathy. Female characters barely register, like Tammy Smith, sole woman in Jim’s unit, who disappears early. Nevertheless, the men are fascinating, particularly Bill, who obsessively counts his tie’s polka dots while watching the murder trial. And the ending, which wraps up everything, is bound to stick in readers’ heads.

Understated mystery concentrating on a morally ambiguous legal process—and riveting throughout.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9969677-2-3

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Chunky Pops Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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