Hard-core fans might make it through these thickets of haphazard plot. But sloppy prose and unappealing characters mark a...

THE MULBERRY TREE

Billionaire leaves his widow nothing but a ramshackle farmhouse.

Mousy Lillian doesn’t complain. She’d always been content to hide in the corners of rich Jimmie Manville’s life, anyway. He doted on his plump little wife, though plenty of people wondered why he didn’t get a woman who wasn’t afraid of her own shadow. Surely he had a reason for leaving his fortune to the sister and brother he hated, or perhaps he was planning to change his will before he died in a plane crash. In any case, Lillian believes that challenging the will is fruitless: she lied about her age when she signed her marriage certificate, so the marriage wasn’t even legal. On the advice of Jimmie’s lawyer, she takes a new identity as Bailey James, gets a nose job, then slinks off to the farmhouse in rural Virginia. Her consuming grief has made her lose weight, so now she’s actually beautiful, just like that. She renovates the place and swaps life stories with hunky carpenter Matt Longacre. As Bailey gossips with nosy neighbors Patsy and Janice (the trio has started a jam-making business), she hears the story of six local boys who, years ago, saved a rural high school from being blown up by a bomb. Acclaimed as heroes, they went their separate ways . . . some now dead, some still living. The six had some connection to Bailey’s dear departed husband—but what? When she finally figures it out and realizes that the harelipped teenager in an old photo is Jimmie, and that Jimmie had changed his name, the mystery is solved. The nasty sister and brother who’ve laid claim to Jimmie’s billions may not be his relations at all. Bailey puts down her jam spoon and goes after what’s rightfully hers.

Hard-core fans might make it through these thickets of haphazard plot. But sloppy prose and unappealing characters mark a low for the perhaps too-prolific Deveraux, author of “twenty-seven New York Times bestsellers” (The Summerhouse, 2001, etc.).

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-671-01421-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on...

MYSTIC RIVER

After five adventures for Boston shamus Patrick Kenzie and his off-again lover Angela Gennaro (Prayers for Rain, 1999, etc.), Lehane tries his hand at a crossover novel that’s as dark as any of Patrick’s cases.

Even the 1975 prologue is bleak. Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus are playing, or fighting, outside Sean’s parents’ house in the Point neighborhood of East Buckingham when a car pulls up, one of the two men inside flashes a badge, and Sean and Jimmy’s friend Dave Boyle gets bundled inside, allegedly to be driven home to his mother for a scolding but actually to get kidnapped. Though Dave escapes after a few days, he never really outlives his ordeal, and 25 years later it’s Jimmy’s turn to join him in hell when his daughter Katie is shot and beaten to death in the wilds of Pen Park, and State Trooper Sean, just returned from suspension, gets assigned to the case. Sean knows that both Dave and Jimmy have been in more than their share of trouble in the past. And he’s got an especially close eye on Jimmy, whose marriage brought him close to the aptly named Savage family and who’s done hard time for robbery. It would be just like Jimmy, Sean knows, to ignore his friend’s official efforts and go after the killer himself. But Sean would be a lot more worried if he knew what Dave’s wife Celeste knows: that hours after catching sight of Katie in the last bar she visited on the night of her death, Dave staggered home covered with somebody else’s blood. Burrowing deep into his three sorry heroes and the hundred ties that bind them unbearably close, Lehane weaves such a spellbinding tale that it’s easy to overlook the ramshackle mystery behind it all.

An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on his characters’ heads.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16316-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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