With its interestingly imperfect characters and escalating sense of urgency, this novel will keep you reading as fast as you...

THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS

Robotham, best known for his gritty Joe O’Loughlin crime thrillers (Close Your Eyes, 2016, etc.), makes a successful literary departure in this engrossing psychological thriller focusing on two women and the dark places their relationship leads.

Every day, Agatha watches Meg from the window of the London grocery store where she works. Meg is pregnant, beautiful, and privileged, with a handsome husband, two lively children, and a perfect home—and a popular blog where she memorializes it all. For Agatha, who wants a life like Meg’s and instead comes home to an empty and shabby apartment, life would be infinitely better if she could lure Hayden back. A communications technician in the Royal Navy, Hayden dumped her when he deployed and now wants nothing to do with her, but Agatha has yet to tell him that she’s pregnant, due in early December, as is Meg. Meanwhile, Meg’s husband, Jack, a TV sports journalist, has been less than enthusiastic about Meg’s current pregnancy, and their marriage—despite what Agatha thinks—is far from perfect. Meg is also hiding a secret: she slept with a family friend and former lover, Simon, following a big fight with Jack. Agatha takes the opportunity of their joint pregnancies to talk to Meg one day, and they soon grow better acquainted, but Agatha keeps Meg in the dark when it comes to her own troubled past as well as the real reason she and Hayden aren’t together and why having a baby is so important to her. Told in Agatha’s and Meg’s alternating, distinct first-person voices, the story of how the women's lives overlap as Meg’s marriage and Agatha’s life both unravel starts with a gradual glimpse into the two women’s worlds, then escalates into something much more sinister. Robotham captures the physical misery that often characterizes late-term pregnancies and writes convincingly in a female voice, but where this book excels is in the increasing sense of threat he crafts so well.

With its interestingly imperfect characters and escalating sense of urgency, this novel will keep you reading as fast as you can.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7031-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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