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

GOOD LOOKIN'

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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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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