A leisurely but often engaging tale of terrorists.

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BLAME GAMERS

A SEASONAL NOVEL

In Thurston’s debut novel, a photographer and a woman investigate the latter’s dangerous ex-boyfriend and stumble onto terrorist recruitment cells.

The last straw for American aspiring dancer and actress Tara Quinn, 19, was when her boyfriend, Ryan Dyck, pulled a knife on her. Tara’s American family friend, Millie, convinces her Canadian stepsister, Hélène Bascule, to take Tara in. But when Ryan goes missing, drug-dealing thugs assault Tara, believing that she knows where her ex has hidden some funds. She briefly stays at Hélène’s bed-and-breakfast before suddenly departing. Meanwhile, Hélène’s son, Mason, a photographer living in East Vancouver, is fascinated by the music of Irish folk singer Deirdre Corr, Tara’s half sister. During the 2011 Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver, Deirdre is seriously injured by an unknown assailant; Ryan had been temporarily staying at his university pal Mason’s place, but after the riot, he inexplicably disappears. He winds up back in Los Angeles, where he spots Tara filming a movie. Tara sees him and flees but later returns to the movie set under the aliasAnn Able.” When she encounters Mason during a photo shoot, the two realize they have things in common—namely, ties to both Ryan and Deirdre. Mason and Tara look for answers regarding Deirdre’s assault, and they find out that someone had robbed a Mafia cache from the Nefer club, where Deirdre was singing the night of the riot. It turns out that the robbery—and Ryan, as well—are connected to a terrorist network. This makes the couple’s investigation decidedly more dangerous, especially when people start turning up dead. Overall, this is an absorbing, if muted, thriller. Thurston slowly starts things off by establishing his characters first; one early scene consists of a lengthy conversation between Hélène and Tara that reveals their dense back stories. Mason, meanwhile, is an unconventional protagonist. He’s much more an observer than a participant, and his actions have little impact on the plot; this is consistent with the character, though, as he’s a photographer who’s trying not to stand out as he documents vagrants. The thriller elements do eventually enter the narrative, though, and they soon provide an escalating sense of menace. Ryan is depicted as the biggest threat, but the author also shows how alarmingly easy it can be to persuade people to join a jihadi cell. The novel repeatedly criticizes the notion of “political correctness,” which it portrays as something that terrorists can exploit. The story manages to deliver occasional jolts, including multiple deaths and the revelations of certain characters’ surprising agendas. Thurston often offers prolonged descriptions, in narration and dialogue, but they’re packed with information: “An hour later she awoke to find she was alone and curiously alert to the faint sounds of a piano coming from the salon below her bedroom window.” The humor is effectively understated, as when one character, worried about a screenplay’s small but significant change to Aztec mythology, warns a director that “micro snubs can lead to macro retaliation.”

A leisurely but often engaging tale of terrorists.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2018

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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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