An engaging thriller that, despite some flaws, contains storytelling that pulls readers compulsively onward.

THE ISLAND

An American family’s trip to see koalas and Australian wildlife becomes a life-and-death situation after they kill an innocent woman in a car crash and her family seeks revenge.

Tom, 44; his second wife, Heather, 24; and his kids, Olivia, 14, and Owen, 12, are in Australia, piggybacking a family vacation onto a business trip. After a difficult year that saw the death of Tom’s first wife and his marriage to Heather—whom the kids dislike—a group trip seems like a way to bring them all together. Renting a car to drive to the coast in search of interesting animals seems like a fun excursion. But while stopping at a roadside stand for food, the family gets to talking with some local people, and they end up on a tiny ferry to a remote private island in search of the wildlife they haven’t yet seen. Once on the island, one thing leads to another, and Tom, driving too fast, hits a woman on a bike, killing her instantly. Over several generations, the family that lives on the island has become a law unto itself, and after realizing that the woman is dead, they seek retribution—whether it will be via death, rape, or cash is to be decided by Ma, the head of the family, and Danny, the husband of the woman who's been killed. Some elements of the survival story feel more like convenient plot points than believable developments, and the writing is occasionally overwrought as McKinty seeks to make weighty statements about life, death, and spiritual links to the natural world, but on the whole, McKinty has written an exciting thriller that follows Heather and the others as they seek to run, hide, and survive the elements until the police—whom they have no way of contacting—can arrive.

An engaging thriller that, despite some flaws, contains storytelling that pulls readers compulsively onward.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-53128-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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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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