A marvelous tale of human nature.

SANDRINE'S CASE

A psychological courtroom thriller from Cook (The Crime of Julian Wells, 2012, etc.).

Husband and wife Sam and Sandrine Madison are both professors at Coburn College in Georgia, but one evening, Sandrine dies from an overdose of pain medications and liquor. Is it suicide or murder? Sam’s strange behavior leads to his arrest, and his subsequent murder trial forms the structure of the story, told in his own words. The couple had grown apart over the years because Sandrine saw Sam as becoming increasingly indifferent and disconnected from her. Even when he learns Sandrine has Lou Gehrig’s disease and will surely die, he shows little sympathy or emotional support. He holds his town of Coburn in contempt and considers his students ignoramuses unworthy of his erudition. (Do these kids even know that “unique” doesn’t take an adjective?) Sam’s thoughts and speech are full of literary references that further separate him from ordinary people. If he ever gets around to writing the great book he vaguely plans, he won’t write it in his office—he doesn’t have one of those—but in his “scriptorium.” So Sam is an easy man to dislike, both for the townspeople and the reader. Maybe Sandrine committed suicide, as Sam claims. Or maybe he murdered her to escape the increasing burdens of her care, as the prosecutor wants the jury to think. Day by day, the state builds its case while the defense tries to tear it down. Sam’s own memories show Sandrine’s increasing frustration and rage with him, while conversations with the defense attorney reveal more of Sam’s personality than the defense dares allow the jury to know. Defense and prosecution are equally skilled and devoted to winning their cases, so the trial’s outcome—and the truth—are not easy to predict.

A marvelous tale of human nature.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2608-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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