A sober, personable tale about the complexities of sexual abuse and its aftermath.

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THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

Namkung (The Things We Tell Ourselves, 2015, etc.) presents a novel about a predatory English teacher and the journalists who seek to stop him.

Caryn Rodgers is an undergraduate at the University of Southern California and an intern at the Los Angeles Daily. She’s the daughter of a beauty queen and a diplomat, and her family is wealthy beyond imagination; she didn’t even know how to use a washing machine before she went to college. But her life hasn’t always been idyllic. Six years ago, during her sophomore year at the prestigious Windemere School for Girls, she found herself the target of unwanted advances from her English teacher, Dr. Gregory Copeland, who’s a beloved, longtime member of the faculty. Caryn, with the support of her boss, Jane March, decides to run a personal essay about her experience in the Daily. Her essay, “My Tenth-Grade Teacher Claims He Fell in Love With Me,” winds up causing quite a stir, and other Windemere alumnae come out of the woodwork with their own stories about Copeland. Caryn receives plenty of negative attention, as well, from Copeland’s defenders. Will there be enough evidence for a case, and will Windemere ever admit any wrongdoing? The story progresses quickly, and although some readers may find it difficult to relate to the protagonist’s wealth, other characters of other socio-economic classes help to round out the narrative. It’s through the stories of these characters that more sinister details emerge; for example, the vodka-fueled and heavily tattooed Sasha Sokoloff provides a thorough and disturbing account of her own past with Copeland. Sasha may seem like a familiar character type—a reckless, emotionally scarred beauty bouncing around Los Angeles—but readers do get the opportunity to understand where her pain comes from. A budding romance for Jane doesn’t add much to the plot; indeed, the journalist mainly just serves as a conduit for the victims’ stories. But the details and personalities of the victims, and the many risks that they face in coming forward, ultimately make the book a worthwhile read.

A sober, personable tale about the complexities of sexual abuse and its aftermath.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Griffith Moon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2017

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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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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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