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BREAKFALL

A plucky heroine, a kind-of mystery, and a lot of sexual hijinks keep it interesting.

A woman is forced to confront the consequences of many bad choices over the course of nine months.

When two policemen show up on her doorstep asking about a white Chevy van registered under her name, Mina Bansky knows this is just the fallout from one more bad decision in her life. She agreed to register the van for a friend named Dylan, a former felon, mostly because he “had a PhD in philosophy and the bluest eyes she had ever seen.” Newly divorced and the mother of a busy toddler, she doesn’t have time to dwell on this complication. She does, however, call her former lover, Matthew, who is also a cop, only to find that he had left town with his family, trying to work it out, but is now back in Chicago. Through flashbacks to the previous June and July, it’s revealed that Mina and Matthew met at their neighborhood jujitsu gym and proceeded to have a flaming affair until their spouses found out about the betrayal. Then, in the present time, trying to deal with the temptation of Matthew’s proximity, Mina finds her life becoming even more complicated when Dylan’s body turns up several days later. Maybe her ex-husband, who might have connections to the Russian mob, killed him? Or maybe it was because Dylan was running drugs in the van? Regardless, this little bit of mystery takes a back seat to endless cycles of Mina-and-Matthew fighting and Mina-and-Matthew sex. The novel moves back and forth from the previous summer to the present, but no matter the time period, the conflicts—and the horniness—remain the same. Mina’s got a backbone, and she refuses to apologize for wanting what she wants even as she feels shame for cheating on her husband; there is strength in her imperfection. There’s no accounting for taste, or pheromones, but she deserves better.

A plucky heroine, a kind-of mystery, and a lot of sexual hijinks keep it interesting.

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9781957957050

Page Count: 269

Publisher: Agora Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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