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ONCE A MAN INDULGES

A well-plotted and compelling tale, despite a few inaccuracies.

Awards & Accolades

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Kelsey offers a debut noir mystery featuring a memorable private detective seeking answers in 1949 Denver.

Harry Thorpe, a World War II veteran, is known to his friends as “Fuzzy,” plays bass fiddle at a jazz club, and has a fondness for bourbon. During the day, he works as a private eye, which mostly entails trailing unfaithful spouses. Although he finds this “depressing,” the pay is steady and the effort required is relatively minimal: “Snap some pics. Take some notes. Then help people ruin their lives.” When he’s asked to look into some threatening letters sent to his old Air Force colonel Christian Marquand, he balks at first; Marquand is cagey about the letters’ specific content and says that he burned them after reading them. Despite his misgivings, Thorpe finally accepts the case—and the hefty retainer that goes with it. He soon becomes entangled with other members of the Marquand family, getting to know the colonel’s wife, Louise, and falling for her darkly mysterious sister, Loren. But although the letters keep coming, Marquand continues to reveal little about them. Then Marquand’s young son is kidnapped, which ratchets up the stakes. What follows is a well-constructed narrative that gains momentum as the facts of the abduction—and the colonel’s shady connections—come to light. Some readers may be bothered by occasional anachronisms; Thorpe orders Macallan Scotch at a dive bar, even though single-malt Scotch whisky wasn’t available in the United States in 1949, and occasional 21st-century phrases such as “It’s all good” feel out of place. Kelsey proves to be a sharp storyteller, though, layering his narrative with suspense and romance and rounding out his characters with vivid traits and enough backstory to make them feel fully formed. In addition to being a sharp-tongued, hard-drinking detective, Thorpe is revealed to be a Princeton University graduate, a skilled researcher, and someone who’s suffered greatly from the trauma of war. Indeed, World War II and its atrocities loom over the entire novel.

A well-plotted and compelling tale, despite a few inaccuracies.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-85698-8

Page Count: 281

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2021

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A FLICKER IN THE DARK

The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.

Twenty years after Chloe Davis’ father was convicted of killing half a dozen young women, someone seems to be celebrating the anniversary by extending the list.

No one in little Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, was left untouched by Richard Davis’ confession, least of all his family members. His wife, Mona, tried to kill herself and has been incapacitated ever since. His son, Cooper, became so suspicious that even now it’s hard for him to accept pharmaceutical salesman Daniel Briggs, whose sister, Sophie, also vanished 20 years ago, as Chloe’s fiance. And Chloe’s own nightmares, which lead her to rebuff New York Times reporter Aaron Jansen, who wants to interview her for an anniversary story, are redoubled when her newest psychiatric patient, Lacey Deckler, follows the path of high school student Aubrey Gravino by disappearing and then turning up dead. The good news is that Dick Davis, whom Chloe has had no contact with ever since he was imprisoned after his confession, obviously didn’t commit these new crimes. The bad news is that someone else did, someone who knows a great deal about the earlier cases, someone who could be very close to Chloe indeed. First-timer Willingham laces her first-person narrative with a stifling sense of victimhood that extends even to the survivors and a series of climactic revelations, at least some of which are guaranteed to surprise the most hard-bitten readers.

The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2508-0382-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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LISTEN FOR THE LIE

Smart, edgy, and entertaining as heck.

Against her better judgment, Lucy Chase returns to her hometown of Plumpton, Texas, for her grandmother’s birthday, knowing full well that almost everyone in town still believes she murdered her best friend five years ago, when they were in their early 20s.

Coincidentally—or is it?—Ben Owens, a true-crime podcaster, is also in town, interviewing Lucy’s family and former friends about the murder of Savannah Harper, “just the sweetest girl you ever met,” who died from several violent blows to the head. Lucy was found hours later covered in blood, with no memory of what happened. She was—and is—a woman with secrets, which has not endeared her to the people of Plumpton; their narrative is that she was always violent, secretive, difficult. But Ben wants to tell Lucy’s story; attractive and relentless, he uncovers new evidence and coaxes new interviews, and people slowly begin to question whether Lucy is truly guilty. Lucy, meanwhile, lets down her guard, and as she and Ben draw closer together, she has to finally face the truth of her past and unmask the murderer of her complicated, gorgeous, protective friend. Most of the novel is told from Lucy’s point of view, which allows for a natural unspooling of the layers of her life and her story. She’s strong, she’s prickly, and we gradually begin to understand just how wronged she has been. The story is a striking commentary on the insular and harmful nature of small-town prejudice and how women who don’t fit a certain mold are often considered outliers, if not straight-up villains. Tintera is smart to capitalize on how the true-crime podcast boom informs and infuses the current fictional thriller scene; she’s also effective at writing action that transcends the podcast structure.

Smart, edgy, and entertaining as heck.

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781250880314

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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