An often enjoyable thriller that’s sometimes hampered by awkward dialogue.

TRACKING THE BUTCHER

IN SEARCH OF A SERIAL KILLER

In Joiner’s (Hardened Hearts, 2018, etc.) thriller, a serial murderer stalks victims in Los Angeles while taunting one of the detectives investigating the crimes. 

Police Lt. Elgie Reynolds has been on desk duty for three months, following a suspension and treatment for alcoholism. His first case back in the field involves a sex worker who narrowly survived a vicious stabbing attack. It turns out that the unknown assailant’s unique pattern of attack—20 shallow wounds and two deep one—appeared in a West Hollywood murder case two weeks earlier. Cops suspect that it’s the work of a serial killer whom Reynolds ultimately dubs “the Butcher.” The killer sends a letter to a TV news station, implying impending murders and specifically mentioning lead investigator Reynolds. More victims do indeed turn up, but although the Butcher’s first two targets were sex workers, the new ones are unfaithful spouses. The Los Angeles Police Department creates a task force, but Reynolds’ superiors enlist another detective to take over the case. However, the Butcher has been regularly calling Reynolds to boast of his crimes, and he stays focused on the lieutenant. The cop has a hunch about the killer’s identity, but finding proof won’t be easy. The majority of Joiner’s novel consists of dialogue, which befits the story; after all, a procedural requires detectives to discuss the ongoing case at length. However, many exchanges feel unnecessarily stilted. Even a simple phone call can contain a good deal of filler, including repetitive greetings: “ ‘Hello, Lieutenant Reynolds?’ ‘Yes, this is Lieutenant Reynolds.’ ” Still, Joiner ensures that all the discourse is comprehensible, and that the characters are distinctive; Reynolds’ wife, Vanessa, for example, relates to a surviving victim by divulging a past trauma, and Lt. Rodney Gray annoys his fellow detectives with his excessive baseball metaphors. The mystery itself is sound, with a convincing and memorably unsettling wrap-up.

An often enjoyable thriller that’s sometimes hampered by awkward dialogue.

Pub Date: May 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-07-020443-7

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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