Real people, real events and the still-charged reverberations of the Civil War provide a provocative framework for a...

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DEVIL'S DEN

In a mystery by former U.S. Department of Commerce official Ashby, the 1923 murder of a Civil War veteran leaves a trail of conspiracy, cover-up and corruption stretching from the Battle of Gettysburg to the halls of the Harding-era Congress and the fledgling Bureau of Investigation (precursor to the FBI).

Someone is killing elderly Civil War veterans and BI agent Seth Armitage must discover what links the victims in order to find the killer, unaware that the investigation is being manipulated by the Bureau’s corrupt director Harry M. Daugherty (real-life Attorney General in the tainted Harding Administration) and a shadowy member of the Senate. Providing a Machiavellian counterweight to the plot is the BI’s ambitious assistant director J. Edgar Hoover. The case draws Virginia-born Armitage, haunted by his memories of World War I France, to the site of the bloody battlefield where his grandfather fought for the Confederacy. Ashby’s interweaving of the two events, and his portrayal of the Civil War as a lingering tragedy for both sides of the conflict, nicely ups the emotional stakes. The beautiful daughter of a deceased Union soldier plays a pivotal role; so do young Charles “Slim” Lindbergh, the resurging Ku Klux Klan and BI colleague Gaston Means (a convicted felon in real life). Ashby missteps in altering between his hero’s first and last names, at times in the same paragraph, and in his not entirely successful attempt to portray the complexities of post-Civil War black-and-white relationships through peripheral characters. It is no mean feat, however, that despite myriad plot devices and a prodigious volume of historical detail—military maneuvers, weaponry, early FBI forensics practices, books of the time—Ashby maintains the story’s forward momentum and clarity.

Real people, real events and the still-charged reverberations of the Civil War provide a provocative framework for a 1920s-era mystery neatly told with meticulous historical detail and enjoyable twists.

Pub Date: March 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456545246

Page Count: 489

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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