A masterful exploration of all kinds of love—romance, family, and friendship—that will make even a cynic cry.

ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW

Secrets are revealed and old wounds are healed as a family attempts to deal with a medical emergency.

Barb Frost knew her marriage wasn’t perfect. She and John had been married for 50 years, but she was unhappy and thinking about leaving, keeping herself busy as first selectman of their small Connecticut town. But then John has a stroke. Barb and John’s daughters rush to the hospital to see him—responsible architect and mom Juliet has always been Barb’s favorite while freedom-loving artist Sadie was her father’s girl. Things are bad enough, but then Barb gets the shock of her life when she goes through John’s phone—and finds out he’s been having an affair. Barb tries to keep the secret from her daughters, knowing it would upset them, but the girls have struggles of their own. Juliet is dealing with secret panic attacks and feels like she can’t handle being a perfect wife, mom, and career woman. Sadie, who moves back home from New York City to help care for her dad, now has to confront Noah Pelletier, her high school sweetheart and the man she’s never been able to forget. He wanted to marry her and stay in their idyllic small town, but she wanted to explore the art world in New York—but now, she’s not so sure that was the right decision. Higgins handles difficult topics with aplomb, mining even the darkest subjects (infidelity, infertility, mortality) with a sense of humor. She resists painting her characters with broad strokes, allowing readers to see the humanity in each person. Sadie and Noah’s love story is angst-filled enough to warrant its own steamy romance novel, but the most touching relationships are the ones Barb has with her daughters and her best friend, Caro, who is Barb’s constant companion as she deals with the fallout of John’s stroke. As Barb puts it, love doesn’t “have to be romantic to encircle you in its arms.”

A masterful exploration of all kinds of love—romance, family, and friendship—that will make even a cynic cry.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-48945-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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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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