Sensitive prose conveys both compassion and outrage in this impressive debut.

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WAYS TO HIDE IN WINTER

A mysterious visitor from Uzbekistan forms an unlikely friendship with a stunned young woman in retreat from life in rural Pennsylvania.

Four years after the car crash that killed her husband, Amos, Kathleen is still “enveloped in a haze of fear” that clearly has a source beyond the wreck she survived. Having quit college at Amos’ behest, she’s now marking time, working at a store in a state park visited off-season by only a few hunters, hikers—and, one day in December 2007, a walk-in named Daniil who wants to stay at the park hostel. Being the only guest suits him just fine; it emerges that people are looking for Daniil and he has good reason to hide. “I betrayed people,” he tells Kathleen, but whether he was a government informant or something worse remains a question as the two tentatively bond over books (Crime and Punishment perhaps a slightly too-obvious metaphor) and chess. Around them, St. Vincent quietly paints a portrait of small-town, working-class America, hollowed out by economic insecurity, where the only way out seems to be joining the Army, like Kathleen’s brother and her best friend Beth’s husband, to fight wars whose purposes no one understands. “They sold us pain and said it was fine,” Kathleen thinks late in the novel, as she’s begun to acknowledge how deeply angry she is for many reasons. “They had such contempt for us, and they thought we didn’t see it. Just because we lived where we lived and were who we were.” The author’s background as a human rights attorney and advocate for victims of domestic violence serves her well as she makes subtle connections between socio-economic powerlessness and male rage as the story moves toward a harrowing denouement that hauntingly suggests even evildoers can be consumed with remorse. St. Vincent closes with an image as ambivalent and resonant as the rest of her fine work: “light interrupted by darkness, darkness interrupted by light.”

Sensitive prose conveys both compassion and outrage in this impressive debut.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61219-720-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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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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