Always an inventive suspense-writer, Bayer outwits himself here with a fractured, Rube Goldberg-like thriller that pits the cop-hero of his first big seller (Switch, 1984) against an unlikely serial killer. As before, middle-aged NYPD homicide detective Frank Janek proves a most winsome protagonist, valiant yet vulnerable. And as in Blind Side and Pattern Crimes, Bayer starts seductively, with a moving prelude that highlights Janek's humanity as the cop takes his first vacation in ten years, in Venice, and falls in love with a German tourist. Janek's idyll is shattered by a phone call informing him that his beloved goddaughter Jess has been slain- -latest victim of a serial killer wanted by the FBI. Trading on old debts, Janek gets assigned to the case as an FBI adjunct (solid detailing of FBI-NYPD rivalry here); his inspired investigation uncovers dread secrets (e.g., that Jess had joined a sex-club) but also a prime suspect: Jess's therapist, man-hating Beverly Archer. However, while breaking into Archer's home for clues, Janek is near-fatally wounded by one of Beverly's patients, a convicted murderess whose room yields strong evidence of her guilt as the serial killer. So far, so brilliant; this is Bayer at his most suspenseful and resonant—but then the narrative veers into overplotted excess, as Bayer reconstructs the genesis and execution of the killings from Archer's point of view (in a shrill, unconvincing voice), and then from that of the murderess, who turns out to have been programmed by Archer to avenge past shames. And when the narrative returns to Janek, his trapping of Archer involves a ploy so far-fetched and a denouement so poetically just as to defy credulity. So: by turns enthralling and just plain silly—a spirited but strained miscalculation by an author who more often than not has been right on the mark.

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-679-40047-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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