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A somber, readable tale of frontier psychodrama.

Falconer’s whodunit, set in 19th-century Sydney Cove, New South Wales, stars a haunted, hard-drinking investigator.

It’s 1875, and Inspector Cormag Macleod is a gruff, older, haunted man who can handle himself in a back-alley brawl. Macleod spends much of the book hung over and likes brooding over his pipe. He’s a bit rancorous as the novel opens. Not only must he trek out to Allynbrook to investigate a murder, but he’s saddled with Constable McDermott, a helper/watcher who’s barely 20. At Allynbrook, this odd couple finds a clue—a leather disc with a distinctive brand that leads them even further into the hinterland, to small subsistence farms. As Macleod and McDermott make their way to a distant property called Ravenscroft (“a lovely place, sitting high atop the hill with the river winding around it”), they encounter an entire cast of hardscrabble farmers raising pigs and growing tobacco and wheat, living day to day. Most of them harbor secrets of some kind. The pair encounters ferocious storms, murders, and a crazed kind of butchery that seems to verge well beyond the human realm in its depravity; it all leads to a vivid, brutal climax. Falconer draws this provincial world well, although the book’s most memorable creation is Macleod himself, a hard man with a soft heart and a jaded worldview (“Most of the evil in this world is in men,” he tells McDermott, in answer to a question about whether or not he believes in ghosts, “we don’t need spirits for evil to be close to us”). The prose is often distractingly purple (“He saw colleagues and friends, those who where succumbing to their injuries slowly, as the tide of blood ebbed from them, their lives slipping away,” and so on), but the dark atmosphere carries the reader along.

A somber, readable tale of frontier psychodrama.

Pub Date: June 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72493-553-3

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

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Smart, edgy, and entertaining as heck.

Against her better judgment, Lucy Chase returns to her hometown of Plumpton, Texas, for her grandmother’s birthday, knowing full well that almost everyone in town still believes she murdered her best friend five years ago, when they were in their early 20s.

Coincidentally—or is it?—Ben Owens, a true-crime podcaster, is also in town, interviewing Lucy’s family and former friends about the murder of Savannah Harper, “just the sweetest girl you ever met,” who died from several violent blows to the head. Lucy was found hours later covered in blood, with no memory of what happened. She was—and is—a woman with secrets, which has not endeared her to the people of Plumpton; their narrative is that she was always violent, secretive, difficult. But Ben wants to tell Lucy’s story; attractive and relentless, he uncovers new evidence and coaxes new interviews, and people slowly begin to question whether Lucy is truly guilty. Lucy, meanwhile, lets down her guard, and as she and Ben draw closer together, she has to finally face the truth of her past and unmask the murderer of her complicated, gorgeous, protective friend. Most of the novel is told from Lucy’s point of view, which allows for a natural unspooling of the layers of her life and her story. She’s strong, she’s prickly, and we gradually begin to understand just how wronged she has been. The story is a striking commentary on the insular and harmful nature of small-town prejudice and how women who don’t fit a certain mold are often considered outliers, if not straight-up villains. Tintera is smart to capitalize on how the true-crime podcast boom informs and infuses the current fictional thriller scene; she’s also effective at writing action that transcends the podcast structure.

Smart, edgy, and entertaining as heck.

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781250880314

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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A great premise leads through all the twists you’d expect to a thoroughly muddy final movement.

Sports agent Myron Bolitar meets the Setup Serial Killer, who’s found a highly effective way to keep anyone from connecting the dots.

There’s no arguing with DNA evidence, the ultimate forensic clincher. So when basketball player Greg Downing’s DNA is found on the scene where retired model Cecelia Callister and her son, Clay, were killed, the FBI comes calling on Myron to ask where they can find Greg. Myron’s a reasonable person to ask because Greg was his schoolmate and former client, the man who wooed and won Myron’s girlfriend away from him and made her Emily Downing. Try as he might, though, Myron can’t help much beyond repeating the obvious: Greg died three years ago, and his body was cremated. Since the Feds aren’t about to give up their search, Myron and his partner, financial advisor Win Lockwood, decide they’d better see if they can get ahead of this story by confirming or contradicting the story of Greg’s death. Meantime, a series of interleaved episodes show the killer eliminating a series of primary targets and framing secondary targets so convincingly for the murders, with special thanks to planted DNA, that it never occurs to the police to connect crimes that were so readily solved on their own. Complications arise when Myron’s thrown together with Jeremy Downing, the son he fathered in a pre-wedding tryst with Emily and then passed off as Greg’s, and when the allies of mob boss Joseph “Joey the Toe” Turant, who was locked up four years ago after his DNA-fueled conviction for the murder of Jordan Kravat, decide to lean on Myron to get him to reveal where Greg is.

A great premise leads through all the twists you’d expect to a thoroughly muddy final movement.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9781538756317

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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