A poignant and compelling narrative of a boy’s search for connection and meaning.

FLOATING TWIGS

A boy encounters hostility and hope in Tabb’s debut coming-of-age novel.

It’s 1990 when Jack Turner returns, after a long absence, to his coastal hometown of Denton, Florida, to attend a funeral. He reflects on pivotal events in the summer of 1968, just before he turned 13. As the younger son of two alcoholics, Jack was mostly resigned to the fact that his parents neglected him. When Jack and two friends found a starving dog, he decided to adopt him on the spot, calling him Bones. He convinced his dad to let him keep the pet, but there was a high price, as his dad demanded the boy pay him rent to do so. Jack’s determined efforts to care for Bones brought him into conflict with local boys, who beat Jack up after he undercut the going rate for cleaning fish for tourist anglers. Jack was befriended by troubled World War II veteran Hank Pittman, who lived in a broken-down school bus and offered him work fixing up the bus. Hank also urged eccentric local widow Mary Jane Dawson to hire Jack to do some yardwork. Soon, however, malevolent gossips wrongfully accused Hank of abusing the boy, which led to a suspenseful trial. Tabb, a former middle and high school English teacher, grew up in the Florida Panhandle, and his depiction of that landscape lends authenticity to the small-town setting. The shadow of war hovers in the background, both in Hank’s past and in the present of Jack’s older brother, who’s away in military training. At times, the novel pits its heroes against one-dimensional villains, but Jack’s voice feels authentic throughout. Although the character’s devotion to Bones propels the action, Tabb never allows the narrative to become a sentimental boy-loves-dog story. The scenes between Jack and his father are particularly effective in revealing the desperate nature of the protagonist’s family situation. The expressive prose shines brightest, however, when it focuses on Jack’s determination to live up to the trust that Hank and Mary have placed in him.

A poignant and compelling narrative of a boy’s search for connection and meaning.

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72210-439-9

Page Count: 396

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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