A feat of storytelling not to be missed.

THE RETURN OF FARAZ ALI

A young Pakistani police officer’s investigation leads him deep into his own past.

The story begins with a crime: Sonia, an 11-year-old sex worker in Lahore’s red-light district, has been killed. Though Faraz Ali has been dispatched by his father, a local politician, to cover up the murder, he can’t bring himself to follow orders. In late-1960s Pakistan, against the backdrop of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s rise to power, Faraz’s unwillingness to play politics, to simply do as he’s told and reap the rewards, has grave consequences. He's reassigned to East Pakistan, where he's seen as an occupier by those fighting for a free Bangladesh, yet another test of his moral fiber. Throughout, his relationship to his powerful father remains a secret, as does the fact that his own mother is a sex worker and he was born in the red-light district himself. While Sonia’s case recedes during the upheavals of war, the injustice won’t leave Faraz, propelling him to reconcile who he is and where he comes from to solve the mystery of her death. The book also follows Faraz’s older sister, Rozina, a sex worker aging out of favor who must secure a future for herself and her adolescent daughter, a dreamer intent on leaving her origins behind, as well as Faraz’s father and his experience as a POW in a pre-Partition era. With each character’s journey, author Ahmad explores the multifaceted nature of longing and loss and what the loneliness they engender is all for. This novel has everything a reader could ask for: a sizzling, noirlike plot; political intrigue juxtaposed with a rich intergenerational family saga; capacious, conflicted characters, including women who may be marginalized by society but are masters of their own narratives; and sublime sentences. A debut novelist, Ahmad manages this complexity seamlessly.

A feat of storytelling not to be missed.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-33018-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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