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WAGEREASY

A smart and fast-paced crime drama that will leave readers wanting more from this author.

Awards & Accolades

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A debut thriller set in the shady world of gambling in Chicago.

Farrell’s novel starts off in 2018 at the scene of a gruesome crime. In a cold, abandoned Chicago factory, a small-time gambler has been found dead, with his partially burnt body hanging from a web of ropes. Private investigator Eddie O’Connell is on the scene as a guest of his Uncle Mike, a retired homicide detective whose old partner, Liz, is in charge of the murder investigation. Liz invited the O’Connells to the crime scene because she respects Uncle Mike’s experience and Eddie’s instincts—even though Uncle Mike left the force after an “Internal Affairs inquiry had left a sour taste in his mouth” and Eddie is basically “a bartender with a start-up PI business and a gambling debt.” (Both men also sometimes do occasional investigative jobs for a shady crime boss named Rosario Burrascano.) Eddie suspects that Liz asked them to visit this crime scene because she thinks it might have an organized crime connection; he finds out, however, that he has a personal connection to the case himself: He knows the dead man—or rather, he knew him. He and Jimmy “the Leech” Golding were old comrades at the track, where they spent a lot of time betting on horses. He soon realizes, however, how little he really knew about his pal Jimmy: “We were the kings of the racetrack, and I didn’t learn his full name until last night when they zipped up the body bag.”

The author smoothly and confidently deepens the story, which involves a tangle of conflicting loyalties. As the violence of the so-called Blowtorch Murders increases, Liz comes under intense pressure from her department and the FBI to make faster progress—but because of Mike’s murky connection to Burrascano, she’s forced to keep him at arm’s length from the official investigation. Mike has his own resources in his old department (“loyalties ran deep and Mike O’Connell had helped a lot of officers on the way up the ladder”), but it’s Eddie’s intensifying personal connection to the crimes that forms the true backbone of the book. This can be to the book’s detriment, at times, because it results in no other character being as well developed as Eddie is. However, Farrell also beautifully realizes the setting of Chicago in winter, which helps to enhance the procedural elements of the story. He skillfully unfolds the complicated tale as Eddie delves deeper into the underworld and finds out how it intersects with the impending legalization of sports betting in Illinois. The novel presents a bleak landscape of rival gangs always looking to double-cross one another as well as a memorably startling characterization of the Chicago police and court system. Eddie is just the right kind of noble but flawed hero to travel between the two realms, and Farrell crafts an array of familiar and unfamiliar genre elements into a genuinely gripping read.

A smart and fast-paced crime drama that will leave readers wanting more from this author.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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