From the Leslie Elliott Mysteries series , Vol. 2

Fresh-catch grilling, red wine swilling, and a perplexing killing fill this breezy beach read.

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In this mystery, a middle-aged Florida transplant deals with new friends, a hot fisherman, and body parts on the beach.

In Hanafee’s second book about inquisitive, wine-loving Leslie Elliott, the former Midwestern public relations executive now resides in Southwest Florida, where she attempts to start a new career as a mystery writer. Recently divorced, she also tries her hand at a new man: dimpled, sandy-haired Frank Johnson. Frank has a fishing boat and a spirited wife; supposedly he will soon part ways with one of them (spoiler alert: It won't be the vessel). One night while grilling fillets of fish at her condo, Leslie tells Frank she snooped inside a beachfront house under construction and found buzzards and a headless dog carcass. Frank reckons the house’s renovation is slow because the owner, widower Peter Thompson, lives primarily in Canada, and he suggests the dead animal was probably a coyote (but where’s the head?). The next day, Frank goes AWOL, and local children find a body in a boat on the beach. Yet when the sheriff arrives, the corpse is gone. Later, Leslie’s friend Deb Rankins and her art class find body parts on the shore, and the two women call the sheriff. But the sheriff—who told Leslie to mind her own business earlier when she called about the headless canine—again seems nonplussed. Leslie wonders: “Was there a killing spree in paradise that no one was talking about except for my friends and me?” Although thinking about Frank and writing her novel take up much of her days, she saves some time for dinners with Peter, who arrives to check on his house. It’s not clear in Hanafee’s story why two men are vying for Leslie’s attention, especially eye-candy Frank (“The man kind of takes your breath away”). And the crime novel fails to tie up loose ends, perhaps signaling a third installment starring the intrepid Leslie, who loves to look for clues and fears that she is “destined to be alone like the spinster ghost in the Tarpon Bar.” That said, juicy gossip about the community’s residents and amusing banter between Leslie and her mother—who confirms “There IS sex after 70”—make this enjoyable mystery’s pages turn quickly.

Fresh-catch grilling, red wine swilling, and a perplexing killing fill this breezy beach read.

Pub Date: May 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-09-836473-1

Page Count: 268

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022


It's hard to read but hard to look away from.

When two women who share a birthday meet, a journalist becomes the subject of her own true-crime mystery.

On their 45th birthdays, Josie Fair and Alix Summer meet at a pub and discover they were born not only on the same day, but in the same hospital. Alix is a successful journalist, and Josie convinces Alix that her story is worth telling: Josie met her husband when she was 13 and he was 40. “I can see that maybe I was being used, that maybe I was even being groomed?” she confesses to Alix. “But that feeling of being powerful, right at the start, when I was still in control. I miss that sometimes. I really do. And what I’d like, more than anything, is to get it back.” From this premise Alix creates a Netflix series, Hi! I’m Your Birthday Twin! which investigates Josie’s life as she reconciles what happened to her as a teen and seeks a new path. With the story unfinished, the narrative unfolds in the present tense, with prose that jingles like song lyrics: “He turns to see if the girl is behind him, and sees her wishy-washy, wavy-wavy, in double vision through the glass windows of the hotel.” Alix is both intrigued and repulsed by Josie, but she initially gives her the benefit of the doubt. After all, Alix’s husband, Nathan, has a drinking problem, and Alix knows what it’s like to be reluctant to leave a bad situation. But Josie seems more interested in being part of Alix’s seemingly glamorous life than she is in fixing her own, and when three people end up dead and Alix’s life is turned upside down, the evidence points to Josie—and turns the TV series into a murder mystery. Transcripts from Alix’s interviews alternate with the narrative, offering increasingly varied perspectives on Josie’s story as told by her neighbors, friends, and family members. With so many versions of events, the ending shatters, leaving readers to decide whose is the truth.

It's hard to read but hard to look away from.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023

ISBN: 9781982179007

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023


Fascinating main characters and a clever plot add up to an exciting read.

A thriller with bloody murders and plenty of suspects and featuring an unlikely partnership between two FBI investigators.

FBI consultant Amos Decker has a lot on his mind. The huge fellow once played for the Cleveland Browns in the NFL until he received a catastrophic brain injury, leaving him with synesthesia; he sees death as electric blue. More pertinent to the plot, he also has hyperthymesia, or spontaneous and highly accurate recall. On the one hand, his memories can be horrible. He’d once come home to find his wife and daughter murdered, dead in pools of blood. Later, he listens helplessly on the telephone while his ex-partner shoots herself in the mouth. On the other hand, his memory helps him solve every case he's given. Now he's sent to Florida with a brand-new partner, Special Agent Frederica White, to investigate the murder of a federal judge. Both partners are pissed at their last-minute pairing, and they immediately see themselves as a bad fit. White is a diminutive Black single mother of two who has a double black belt in karate “because I hate getting my ass kicked.” (The author doesn't mention Decker's race, but since he's being contrasted with his new partner in every way, perhaps readers are expected to see him as White. Clarity would be nice.) Their case is strange: Judge Julia Cummins was stabbed 10 times and her face covered with a mask, while her bodyguard was shot to death. Decker and White puzzle over the “very contrarian crime scene” where two murders seem to have been committed by two different people in the same place. The plot gets complex, with suspects galore. But the interpersonal dynamic between Decker and White is just as interesting as the solution to the murders, which doesn't come easily. At first, they’d like to be done with each other and go their separate ways. But as they work together, their mutual respect rises and—alas—the tension between them fades almost completely. The pair will make a great series duo, especially if a bit of that initial tension between them returns. And Baldacci shouldn’t give Decker a pass on his tortured memories, because readers enjoy suffering heroes. It's not enough that his near-perfect recall helps him in his job.

Fascinating main characters and a clever plot add up to an exciting read.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1982-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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