Fiery beauties and rakish hunks can’t enliven this overblown melodrama.

READ REVIEW

THE QUEEN JADE

Meticulously researched backstory and excess verbiage too often trump adventure in Murray’s fourth effort (The Conquest, 2002, etc.).

Lola Sanchez is cocooning at her fantasy bookstore in Long Beach, California, when her mom, UCLA archeologist Juana, announces plans to return to Guatemala. Her quest? To discover the true artifacts behind the Mayan “Legende of the Queen Jade,” transcribed by Beatriz de la Cueva, colonial governor, ca. 1540. De la Cueva was the first European to track the Jade, a luminous blue jewel that is Central America’s answer to the One Ring of Power. For centuries, scholars have retraced de la Cueva’s steps as outlined in her fanciful writings. Von Humboldt (1800s) found the labyrinths mentioned in the Legende, the Mazes of Deceit and Virtue, which surround the jewel and confound would-be world dominators. Oscar Tapia (1924) discovered the Flores Stelae panels, which contain hieroglyphs declared meaningless by Juana; her partner, Manuel Alvarez, (Lola’s putative father); and dashing scientist/revolutionary, Tomas de la Rosa. Tomas—recently dead—and Juana had been estranged since he lured Manuel into quicksand. Now, when Hurricane Mitch hits Guatemala, Lola goes after her missing mother. With Juana’s other bane, Professor Erik Gomara, in tow, Lola reunites with Manuel and a very cheesed-off Yolanda, Tomas’ daughter. Still seething over banishment by Lola’s family, spitfire Yolanda is dodging her father’s army enemies. Lola’s conquest of rake Erik and revelations about her parentage momentarily quicken the pulse, but turgid prose slows the narrative (“here chocolate-covered earth, streaked with lime and pebbled with stones, extruded into the paved areas, thick, deep, and making exhaling sounds when the car’s wheels crushed on by”). Sheer logistics occupy three-quarters of the story, but getting anywhere near the Jade is definitely not half the fun. By the time Erik decodes the Stelae to expose the true nature of the labyrinths and Juana’s whereabouts, readers will have long run screaming back to The Da Vinci Code.

Fiery beauties and rakish hunks can’t enliven this overblown melodrama.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-058264-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Rayo/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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