A beautifully understated portrait of a hero who’s a lot better at grieving than detecting.

A STRANGER LIES THERE

The 1970s come back to life—and not in a nice way—in this year’s winner of the St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest.

Tim Ryder’s days as a student radical ended abruptly when he joined several friends in a bank robbery intended to provide funding for a fringe Presidential candidate. Predictably, the robbery went bad, leaving two people dead and sending Tim and Glenn Turret, the ringleader, to prison. Now Tim’s put all that behind him, or so he thinks. He makes a respectable living as a North Palm Springs woodworker, and his wife Deirdre, a former addict who’s been clean for years, works as a substance abuse counselor. One hot Sunday morning Tim takes his coffee out to his front yard and finds a corpse on his lawn. The young man has clearly been shot in the head, but nothing else about his death is clear—not the reason he came to the quiet desert community, not his connection to Tim, not even his name. When he finds a telltale scrap of evidence in the street, Tim foolishly decides to pursue it himself instead of turning it over to overbearing Inspector Branson, whose sole contribution to the case has been to announce that Turret’s just been released from prison. Soon Tim’s new life has been shattered as completely as his old.

A beautifully understated portrait of a hero who’s a lot better at grieving than detecting.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36441-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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