A riveting mystery tale with a compelling lead character.

DOUBLE BLIND

THE ICELANDIC MANUSCRIPT MURDERS

In Winokur’s Iceland-set debut thriller, a forensic scientist’s investigation into her twin brother’s long-ago disappearance may have ties to present-day murders.

The first thing that Brynja Pálsdóttir notices about the mysterious paper scroll she receives at her office is the red ribbon tied around it. It’s just like the one that she wore in her hair as a child—the one that her twin brother, Lúkas, was holding for her on the day he disappeared, 20 years ago. Inside the scroll is an unsigned poem that implies that her “other half” is in a cellar somewhere. Brynja, the busy director of forensic sciences at Legacy Genetics in Southwest Iceland, decides to investigate further, starting with the Book of Möðruvellir—a set of ancient manuscripts that collect Icelandic family sagas, which the poem also cryptically references. However, she finds that her migraine headaches, which she hasn’t had in years, have returned; at the same time, she’s maintaining a secret engagement to Icelandic Prime Minister Ari Ketilsson and also trying to determine what’s wrong with her father, who apparently has some form of dementia. Then, one day, an acquaintance suddenly collapses in her office. He’d eaten doughnuts that someone had anonymously sent to Brynja, and doctors suspect poison. Moreover, she believes that a new poem, which accompanied the doughnuts, is a warning of an imminent attack against the Icelandic Parliament. In the coming days, more verses appear, and more poisonings follow—some of which prove fatal. Certain that Lúkas’ disappearance is connected to the killings, Brynja races to find answers before anyone else gets hurt. Winokur’s story is planted firmly in Icelandic history. For example, Legacy has a national database of DNA profiles of Icelanders—not a criminal database but a repository of “our collective DNA,” as Brynja puts it, which plays a role in the story. The author also sees to it that subplots serve multiple dramatic purposes. For example, citizens’ protests against the databases are a possible threat not only to Brynja’s job, but also to her engagement; an attractive actress named Ásta is stirring up the protests as well as openly flirting with the prime minister. Despite the story’s density, Winokur smartly keeps the focus on the central mystery of the brother’s fate instead of merely compiling a suspect list—and fortunately, the able protagonist rarely lets her debilitating headaches slow her down. As a forensic scientist, she often works with the police department, so she begins the novel looking into an unrelated missing person case. This effectively introduces Detective Superintendent Henning Holt, who makes for a convincing antagonist; he’s barely able to restrain his hostility toward the younger woman, who has the forensic position that he wanted. The best characters, however, are Brynja’s allies, including her reliable, supportive childhood friend Stína and her new, Danish assistant, Elly Sørensen, who helpfully asks frequent questions about Icelandic customs. Winokur’s compact descriptions keep things moving along briskly even when they detail aspects of DNA and RNA testing.

A riveting mystery tale with a compelling lead character.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Anchor House Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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