Strong characters, an intriguing story, and a brisk pace make for a highly readable legal thriller.

SILENT SUSPECT

Hawthorne’s debut novel follows a Cape Cod lawyer who defends a mute old woman with memory loss in her trial for a 50-year-old murder in a hostile Southern town.

Olivia St. Clair, 72, is a successful, mute sculptress living the twilight of her life on Cape Cod. One day, however, she’s suddenly arrested and whisked away to a South Carolina town to face murder charges in the death of her wealthy industrialist lover, who died more than 50 years ago in a mysterious factory fire. To defend her, she hires John Bartlemas, a Cape Cod lawyer with little criminal experience. Bartlemas is dealing with his own personal problems, for which he needs money, but what he expects will be a quick guilty plea and probation for St. Clair turns into a desperate fight for her life when the local district attorney unexpectedly asks for the death penalty. Bartlemas finds himself not only struggling with a mute client and her poor memory, but also a prejudiced Southern town that would like nothing better than to see his client dead. Hawthorne has written a sleek, stylish murder mystery with a sharp focus that never loses sight of the main plot even as it takes occasional detours into subplots, each adding to the story’s enjoyment and understanding. Although this is his debut, Hawthorne, a former attorney, avoids the trap of stuffing the book full of everything he knows, and the story moves along briskly. The book perfectly captures the “fish out of water” element felt by Bartlemas and St. Clair in a suspicious town and legal system that views the Northerners as haughty Yankees trying to hoodwink them. Among the small yet memorable cast, Bartlemas is well-defined, but perhaps the most interesting is St. Clair. Questions surround her yet remain unanswered even as the case is tried and the mystery revealed. Another book featuring one or both of them could fill in the gaps—a return most readers would welcome.

Strong characters, an intriguing story, and a brisk pace make for a highly readable legal thriller.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9863346-0-3

Page Count: 203

Publisher: Book Baby

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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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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