A slightly jumbled debut that, while well-written, could have gone places it didn’t quite manage to reach.

CROOKED RIVER

Two sisters growing up in rural Oregon find their world shaken when they stumble across a dead woman in the river that runs through their father's property.

Ollie, who's 10, and 15-year-old Sam aren't just sisters—they're best friends, brought closer by their childhoods in a semifunctional family. After their father leaves, the girls' mom must raise them on her own. When their dad—nicknamed "Bear"—eventually resurfaces, he takes up living alone in the woods, where they see him infrequently. That is, until their mother dies of a heart attack and the sisters must move in with Bear and adapt to his crunchy nature-man lifestyle. His way of life is far from traditional, but the girls love it—he lives in a teepee in a meadow, with beekeeping as his primary source of income. The body the girls discover is at the center of the somewhat predictable mystery story that follows. The sisters, who alternately serve as narrators with very different voices (though Ollie is only 10, she reads as older), are increasingly consumed with solving the woman's bludgeoning death. Most townspeople don't seem surprised when Bear is fingered for the crime, though Sam and Ollie never believe their father is guilty. The girls spend the remainder of the novel trying to pinpoint the real criminal and save their dad from a jail sentence (which would leave them parentless). This is primarily a whodunit peppered with supernatural ghost talk (Ollie sees spirits she calls “The Shimmering,” who follow her throughout the tale). Unfortunately, much of the paranormal subplot is tepid; Geary is a solid writer, though some of her phrasing can veer toward the overwrought, and some of the “country speak” she makes the characters engage in feels awkward. The book's core mystery is also disappointing—the identification of the dead woman’s killer doesn't feel revelatory or surprising.

A slightly jumbled debut that, while well-written, could have gone places it didn’t quite manage to reach.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232659-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

Did you like this book?

more