A promising debut. One hopes for a more tightly structured narrative next time around, but the right ingredients are all...

SANCTUS

A cliffhanger—literally—that aspires to towering heights but doesn’t quite get there.

Why would a proper monk go climbing out of a mountain lair and then shoot gospel-gang signs at an eager public watching his every move before the face of God? (“The sign he’s making is the Tau,” says one knowing fellow.) Suffice it to say that said monk has a secret involving, of course, a secret library (think Umberto Eco), a heretical gloss on the Bible (think Dan Brown), a tough detective named Arkadian (think Martin Cruz Smith) and a militant order of religious guardians (think Indiana Jones). A few loose phrases of Greek and Aramaic waft through the pages of this debut by Toyne, a Briton resident in France, who packs a lot of well-researched information into this aspirational thriller. If you’re looking to survive a siege, Toyne provides helpful instructions. The timing is off, though; it takes much too long to get to the meat of the story—understandably, perhaps, since it takes our monk a good while to ease himself across the sheer rock face, his progress marked by clerics of sinister demeanor (“Even if by some miracle he does manage to make it to the lower slopes, our brethren on the outside will apprehend him”). Toyne has a realistic bent, however, and the derring-do and scriptural intrigue never get too unwieldy or too unworldly. His characters, too, are well-rounded and credible; what’s not to like about a monk who reads Nietzsche? A bonus: Toyne’s battery of good guys include strong women characters, with no condescension; too many books of this kind treat women as afterthoughts, if not mere love interests. And there’s some nice elaboration of the plot, keeping the reader guessing whether the heretics are good guys or bad, and just when the seventh seal is going to crack.

A promising debut. One hopes for a more tightly structured narrative next time around, but the right ingredients are all here.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-203830-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 17

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more