A surprisingly upbeat thriller with loads of charm.

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FORCE FOR GOOD

After a young boy is shot and killed, a group of high-school friends wages a digital war against a local gang in Muggington’s (People of the Stones, 2013, etc.) techno-thriller.

A gunshot immediately stops a basketball game in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, and a young man named Clown is devastated to see that his baby brother, Sam, has been killed. Clown’s friend Mountain holds the disreputable Original Young Gangsters responsible for the murder, and proposes a club, Force for Good, to seek justice. The club, including a brilliant computer hacker named Ordinary, decides to nonviolently retaliate in the only way they know how—by using the Internet as a weapon. Muggington offers a buoyant story that, despite its cruel thugs and occasional murders, reads like a YA novel. This is due to the author’s wise decision to tell the tale from the high-schoolers’ perspective; Mountain, for example, considers school a “waste of time,” and the story portrays all adults as useless, from the basketball coach who doesn’t know his players’ names to the New York mayor who’s so inept that an aide has to pull him away from a cluster of reporters. FFG’s digital vengeance is amusingly optimistic, steering clear of cyber attacks and instead putting OYG members in the public spotlight to diminish their street cred. Although Mountain starts the club, Ordinary drives the narrative; his skills eventually catch the attention of both the cops and the National Security Agency. He even gets the best jokes, as when he scoffs at the supposed “geniuses” at an Apple Store before hacking its electronics; when asked by Mountain to “speak English,” he reiterates the same intricate terminology, only slower. The author sprinkles the story with ironic monikers; for example, Sexpot, a female FFG member, infiltrates the OYG without using sex, and Ordinary is anything but. There are also clever, animal-inspired metaphors, as when Mountain pokes his head out of an elevator “like a groundhog in its earthy home checking for predators” or when scrolling numbers on a computer are compared with “ants scattering from the descending doom of a giant shoe.” The ending, however, wraps things up a little too neatly, and may make readers wish that this brief book was a bit longer.

A surprisingly upbeat thriller with loads of charm.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491237304

Page Count: 116

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2013

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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