A rigorous, thoroughly engrossing mystery from a writer with immense potential.

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A JOE TURNER MYSTERY

A debut crime drama focuses on a fight for justice involving a lawyer and his obscure, young client accused of murder.

Criminal defense attorney Bequette spins a serpentine thriller chronicling the treacherous life and career of a Bay Area public defender much like himself. Joe Turner is a hard-hitting lawyer but finds himself rattled after a hulking murderer threatens his life and he narrowly escapes unharmed. Following that traumatic shake-up, he is appointed by a court to represent Oakland IceBoyz gang member Darnell Moore, who, at 19 years old, stands accused of the coldblooded, drive-by shooting death of rival Cashtown gangster Cleveland Barlow. The case frustrates Turner in that it suffers from a lack of direct evidence, as video surveillance on the street corner where the murder took place never shows Moore shooting Barlow, though a purported witness testifies otherwise. As the case develops, Moore proves to be a difficult, unreliable defendant, withholding critical details about his firearm possession (“That’s not my gun”) and misleading investigators about his alliances with the IceBoyz gang. Running alongside the case is the backstory of 9-year-old twin brothers Damon and Jesse Wendell, who are forced to tolerate another in a series of “too good to be true,” incapable foster fathers. They are tormented by relentless schoolyard bullying and sexual abuse by their current foster parent, which results in deadly retribution.

In-depth details embedded in the narrative reveal Turner to be a tough yet sensitive single Northern California legal professional prone to stress-drinking and flourishes of loneliness. His dynamic interplay with Andy Kopp, the wiseacre personal injury attorney with whom he shares an office, offers comic relief as Kopp’s wife attempts to set Turner up with an eligible woman to soothe his single man’s ennui. The simmering romance that ensues effectively leavens all of the hardcore defense attorney’s spadework nicely. Both storylines, Moore’s murder trial and the twins’ history of drama at home, eventually coalesce into a surprising intercourse of criminal defense and childhood self-defense and vigilante justice. These narrative elements bring the case to a rousing climax and a shocking conclusion that readers won’t see coming. Written from Turner’s first-person perspective, this series opener presents the protagonist as a resilient lawyer. At times, his behavior suggests he might be better suited as a detective, until the courtroom antics begin and he pokes holes in the prosecution’s case against Moore, who he believes is innocent. A father of twin boys, Bequette drew from his experience raising them, which bolsters the book’s authenticity. Short chapters keep the action and the momentum at a quick pace as Turner draws closer to exonerating his client amid a firestorm of twists and turns. Kudos to the author for inserting a bombshell zinger into the thriller’s last chapter; it’s a doozy. Anchored by a likable hero, this zesty, addictive tale incorporates plenty of criminal hijinks and courtroom melodrama and will satisfy fans of suspense novels and literary crime dramas.

A rigorous, thoroughly engrossing mystery from a writer with immense potential.

Pub Date: May 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5092-3570-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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