An engrossing, impressive debut novel that skillfully charts a young Frenchwoman’s coming-of-age.

THE MARGOT AFFAIR

A French teenager struggles to navigate her relationships with her famous parents in this moody bildungsroman.

Margot Louve’s life changes forever when she and her mother, Anouk, a successful stage actress, see her father’s wife outside a cafe in Paris. Suddenly, Margot begins to question the secret life that her father, Bertrand Lapierre, the French Minister of Culture, and her formidable, unconventional mother have built together. Though Margot adores her father, who remains a frequent presence in her life, his identity must remain a secret to the rest of the world. When faced with the reality of his other, public life and family, Margot begins to yearn for her father to leave his wife and takes a reckless step to encourage him to do so. This debut novel by Lemoine, a French Japanese writer who currently lives in New York, explores Margot’s relationships not only with her parents, but also with Brigitte and David, two older, married journalists with whom she develops an ambiguous, sexually fraught relationship. Lemoine excels at teasing out the ambivalent contours of relationships between teenagers and adults. At 17, Margot teeters between childhood and adulthood: Both insightful and immature, she is eager to be treated like a grown-up. Frustrated by adults who treat her like a child, she is drawn to people who seem to take her seriously. But these relationships are not straightforward, and as the book progresses, Margot reevaluates her ideas about Brigitte, David, and her parents. Though the novel is largely concerned with Margot’s interior emotional state, it moves at a satisfyingly quick pace, and Lemoine’s prose is visually and emotionally precise: “If she abandoned me,” Margot thinks of Anouk, “I’d have a concrete reason to blame her, other than this confused feeling of unhappiness.”

An engrossing, impressive debut novel that skillfully charts a young Frenchwoman’s coming-of-age.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984854-43-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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