A haunting but captivating novel featuring poignant characters.

THE LAST LAST FIGHT

Lehman’s debut novel depicts a family tragedy as narrated by the oldest of four siblings.

Samantha “Sammi” Hollander was 11 years old in 1968 when her father beat her mother so viciously that she was sent to the hospital for almost a week. Afterward, he left his spouse and his four children, ranging in age from 1 to 11. Seven years later, in 1975, he’s still gone, and the rest of them live in a double-wide trailer in the small fictional town of Altera, Oregon. Eighteen-year old Sammi and her 16-year-old sister, Mary, work shifts at the Dairy Queen, helping to support the family. Their brother Randy is 10, and little Davy is 8. Sammi is the family’s de facto mother; she’s Davy’s emotional rock and the only one who can soothe his fears. At one point, narrator Sammi describes their life with their mother, Claire: “I think about the different ‘Moms’ me and the sibs had. Normal Mom, Depressed Mom, Psycho Bitch Mom, Happy Mom, Drunk Mom.” This heart-rending story about troubled people—some broken beyond repair, others surviving with stunning strength—is liberally sprinkled with colloquialisms that bring the culture, place, and time to life. The white Hollander family’s drama also plays out against the story of Altera’s racial bigotry, expressed primarily through the residents’ hateful treatment of Sammi’s best friend, Caitlin Patters, who’s black. The story is also filled with visceral images of violence: “Mom turned her palm up-ways, brought it close to me, to the skin under my chin and above my neck, that place where old folks get all flabby and loose. She grabbed that skin under my chin between her thumb and her index finger, tight….Worst pain she caused me without making me bleed.” Sammi’s recollections of years past are interspersed throughout as the story builds to a catastrophic, shocking conclusion.

A haunting but captivating novel featuring poignant characters.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 421

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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