An entertaining tale bolstered by outstanding characters, both recurring and new.

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Hunting Evil

A WOLFE ADVENTURE NOVEL

Retired Army Ranger Tom Wolfe and wife Terry return to take down evil billionaire Vernon Crassman in Branam’s (Alaska Gold, 2014) action-thriller.

Having narrowly escaped murderous thugs in their previous adventure, Wolfe and Terry already know the lengths to which the Crassman Industries CEO will go to boost his wealth. So Wolfe, cooperating with the IRS in Seattle and posing as tax administrator Tom Jones, puts a plan into effect. He hopes to gather intel on undocumented workers at the company’s assembly plant, and he may find his opportunity when Crassman invites the disguised Wolfe to his ranch, which neighbors the facility. All Wolfe and Terry (as fiancee Terry Sweet) have to do is dig around the property and maintain their cover. But that won’t be easy with Crassman’s henchmen, including contract killer Theodore Dubord, joining them for the weekend. The energetic husband/wife protagonists once again prove more than capable, especially since Terry has trained in martial arts and is handy with a gun. The opening teases a bit of espionage: Wolfe’s scheme involves inciting Crassman by claiming that a video the CEO boasts of possessing— incriminating footage in which an IRS agent tries to bribe him—is a fake. But once Terry joins Wolfe at the ranch, the story disappointingly shifts its focus to the threat of one (or more) of the numerous villains exposing the couple or possibly recognizing them. Branam doesn’t skimp on character development, though, and Wolfe isn’t the only one with a scheme. Elki Lincoln, for example, is undercover helping Wolfe but also secretly working with Crassman’s COO to exact revenge for something Crassman did to her family years ago. Similarly, illegal workers Miing Jo Yang and Kari Liu flee the plant and hide out at the adjacent ranch, while auditor Michael Becker makes a bold move against Wolfe because he wants Wolfe’s (cover) job. The story, despite its shady deals, nefarious goings-on, and rather hefty body count, isn’t without humor; Dubord, for one, acknowledges his “job security,” since he’s confident Crassman won’t soon run out of people he wants dead.

An entertaining tale bolstered by outstanding characters, both recurring and new.

Pub Date: July 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4582-1918-3

Page Count: 346

Publisher: AbbottPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

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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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