An entertaining political thriller—smart and engrossing.

CENTER STAGE

A POLITICAL THRILLER

A retired rock star—the son of a veteran politician—decides to run for a vacated seat in the Senate.

After Nevada Sen. Ted Garvey dies, there’s a frantic race for his seat, a crucial one for a Senate equally divided by the two warring political parties. Billy Rogers, an uninspiring “pedestrian pol” with “zero charisma,” takes aim at the vacancy for the Democrats while Chris Collins, a beautiful, talented, but soulless Republican, pounces as well. The monkey wrench in both their plans is Tyler Sloan, an aging rock star willing to retire from his career and devote tens of millions of his vast fortune to becoming the next senator of Nevada. He’s never held public office, but he’s not your average political neophyte either—Sloan’s father, Mike, was a storied Democratic politician who just barely missed occupying the Oval Office. Sloan is beloved, handsome, and charming, but he also has his own baggage—a history of promiscuity and drug use, for starters. Even worse, he once had a “couple of romps” with Collins—including a threesome a quarter-century ago that was immortalized on film. Denny Morgan, a washed-up former rock star, has the tape, but he’s not giving it up for free. Avrashow skillfully takes a shopworn paperback formula—the political outsider bucking convention to do the right thing—and gives it a delightfully fresh take. There’s no shortage of political intrigue depicted with astuteness and emotional drama as well, including the romantic electricity between Tyler and his media consultant Bree Baker. This isn’t exactly All the King’s Men, but it isn’t fluffy pulp-fiction boilerplate either.

An entertaining political thriller—smart and engrossing.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64543-794-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: RealClear Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

HOUR OF THE WITCH

A Puritan wife shocks her community and risks her life to file for divorce in 1662 Boston.

For more than five years, Mary, age 24, has been married to Thomas, 45, a prosperous miller. Thomas has been physically and sexually abusive, always taking care that there are no witnesses. He castigates Mary’s intelligence, telling her she has “white meat” for brains. The marriage is childless, drawing community suspicion to Mary. When she can’t hide bruises on her face, she lies about their provenance. The behavior, she tells herself, only occurs when Thomas is “drink-drunk.” The coverup continues until, cold sober, Thomas drives a fork into Mary’s hand, breaking bones. She flees to her parents’ home and files for divorce, which is allowed but only if grounds can be proven. Forks are a major motif: Not merely newfangled “cutlery” which Mary’s father, a shipping entrepreneur, hopes to profit from importing, but miniature pitchforks viewed by the Puritans as “Devil’s tines.” The forks, as well as other clues—a mysterious pestle, a pentagram etched on a door frame—are used to counter Mary’s compelling, but unwitnessed, claims of cruelty with insinuations of witchcraft. Divorce denied, Mary must return to the marital home and resort to ever more drastic expedients in her quest for freedom. Mary comes from privilege, and her parents clearly care about her. (Unlike the divorce magistrates, they don’t believe she injured her hand by falling on a tea kettle spout.) That they allow her return to Thomas to avoid witchcraft charges defies plausibility—death at Thomas’ hands seems a more immediate prospect, and her family wealth affords many other options. The charges come anyway—timed for maximum melodrama. The language, salted liberally with thee and thou, feels period-authentic. The colonists’ impact on nearby Native tribes is not Bohjalian’s primary concern here, but the Hobson’s choice facing women in Puritan society is starkly delineated.

Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54243-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

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LATER

Horrormeister King follows a boy’s journey from childhood to adolescence among the dead—and their even creepier living counterparts.

Jamie Conklin sees dead people. Not for very long—they fade away after a week or so—but during that time he can talk to them, ask them questions, and compel them to answer truthfully. His uncanny gift at first seems utterly unrelated to his mother Tia’s work as a literary agent, but the links become disturbingly clear when her star client, Regis Thomas, dies shortly after starting work on the newest entry in his bestselling Roanoke Saga, and Tia and her lover, NYPD Detective Liz Dutton, drive Jamie out to Cobblestone Cottage to encourage the late author to dictate an outline of his latest page-turner so that Tia, who’s fallen on hard times, can write it in his name instead of returning his advance and her cut. Now that she’s seen what Jamie can do, Liz takes it on herself to arrange an interview in which Jamie will ask Kenneth Therriault, a serial bomber who’s just killed himself, where he’s stowed his latest explosive device before it can explode posthumously. His post-mortem encounter with Therriault exacts a high price on Jamie, who now finds himself more haunted than ever, though he never gives up on the everyday experiences in which King roots all his nightmares.

Crave chills and thrills but don’t have time for a King epic? This will do the job before bedtime. Not that you’ll sleep.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7890-9649-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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