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A DARKER JUSTICE

There’ll be more revelations about Mary’s parents, too, in a twist that threatens to turn this series into backwoods soap...

Half-Cherokee Atlanta ADA Mary Crow (In the Forest of Harm, 2000) returns once more to the woods of North Carolina, where the ghost of her murdered mother competes for attention with present-day miscreants.

Reverend Gerald LeClaire, the guileless prophet of FaithAmerica, thinks God wants him to be president. But his more sinister followers plan to fulfill his prophecy of doom for the false Solomons of the federal bench the old-fashioned way: by murdering a dozen sitting judges, one per month. Unfortunately, the overeager disciple of Sergeant Robert Wurth, the ex–Army man they’ve recruited to turn a camp for young offenders into a training ground for ask-no-questions foot soldiers, got carried away with execution #11, and the FBI is now alert to the threat to #12, Richmond appellate judge Irene Hannah, who practically raised Mary Crow after her parents died. Stung by the notion that justice needs armed guards, Her Honor has refused federal protection, and it’s Mary’s job to talk her into accepting it. But only the dullest readers will be surprised when Mary ends up as Judge Hannah’s protector herself, or when Wurth slips past the cordon FBI agent Daniel Safer has thrown up around the judge’s horse farm, stands over her with the lethal needle inches from her neck, and then decides that killing is too good for her. From this point on, the descent into standard-issue action is swift. The judge vanishes during an innocuous excursion into town; Mary, packed off in disgrace, sneaks back into town and goes hunting for her old friend; Safer hooks up with Jonathan Walkingstick, the ex-lover Mary still pines for, and goes after her; and the nation’s future lies in the hands of a juvenile offender who still hasn’t learned to ask no questions.

There’ll be more revelations about Mary’s parents, too, in a twist that threatens to turn this series into backwoods soap opera.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-553-80131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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