Give this toothless suburban thriller a pass.



Lies, adultery, and murder roil a Hudson Valley neighborhood in Lapena’s (An Unwanted Guest, 2018, etc.) latest domestic thriller.

Sixteen-year-old Raleigh Sharpe has been breaking into homes and hacking into computers to send prank emails. His father, Paul, is keen to minimize, or avoid altogether, any legal fallout, but mom Olivia feels terrible and is convinced that, at the very least, an apology is in order. Without consulting Paul or Raleigh, Olivia writes anonymous apology letters and delivers them to homes that Raleigh targeted. When the bludgeoned body of Amanda Pierce is discovered in the trunk of a submerged vehicle, the neighborhood comes under scrutiny. After all, two weeks ago, Amanda’s husband, Robert, reported her missing after she didn’t return from a girls’ weekend, and now he’s a prime suspect in her death. His is also one of the homes that Raleigh broke into, and of course Raleigh left his fingerprints all over the place. It’s quickly revealed that Robert, an attorney, is hiding something, or a lot of somethings. He’s been sleeping with his next-door neighbor Becky, whose husband, Larry, was having an affair with Amanda. Amanda was young, beautiful, inspired seething jealousy from the other wives, and had a reputation for promiscuity, as pretty murdered women so often do. It’s an adultery merry-go-round in Aylesford, New York, and Detectives Webb and Moen (no first names and minimal personalities) have their hands full with this lively bunch. Lots of wagging mouths spreading salacious rumors set up a few nicely placed red herrings, and Olivia’s efforts, with the help of her friend Glenda, to keep poor coddled Raleigh out of the long arms of the law add angst. Unfortunately, Lapena doesn’t give readers any meaty characters to sink their teeth into or even really root for, and readers will likely see the big twist coming a mile away.

Give this toothless suburban thriller a pass.

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55765-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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