For those who like a tricky brain teaser and aren't too picky about interesting characters or emotional realism.

FIND ME

A mystery featuring a woman with amnesia in New Jersey, a drowned fishing guide on Long Island, a 15-year-old cold case in Wichita, and much more.

In her 19th mystery, and the sixth to feature detective Ellie Hatcher, Burke has taken the kitchen-sink approach, offering a rare abundance of characters, crimes, and misdemeanors. As much as there is a protagonist, it is a woman who, years ago, was thrown from an SUV in Hopewell, New Jersey, and lost her memory. Hope Miller, as she is now known, has spent the past decade and a half under the wing of a devoted friend she met after the accident, an attorney named Lindsay who lives with a boyfriend named Scott. But as the story opens, Hope has disappeared from Hopewell without leaving Lindsay any information as to her whereabouts. Since she has no legal identity, Hope has to work under the radar; she finds a job staging properties on the East End of Long Island for a sketchy real estate agent named...oh well, turns out he's not that important. Meanwhile, there's Ellie Hatcher, the detective whose series this is. She's on vacation in St. Barth's with her boyfriend, Max, having bad dreams about her dad, a cop who committed suicide because he couldn't find Wichita's College Hill Strangler, who was later arrested and jailed. Then there's this giant home improvement chain also based in Wichita whose female CEO is running for senator...and wait, there's more! This novel seems more like the work of a beginning crime writer than one with Burke's experience. Clues, red herrings, exposition, and "things you should know" are dropped in awkwardly and obviously: "Lindsay had learned that psychological trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder could also induce dissociative fugue, or what used to be called a fugue state—a psychological condition characterized by an inability to recall one’s identity or personality." All this hand-holding aside, the book operates on what feels like a kind of anti–Occam's-razor logic, favoring the most complicated solution to any question. The good news is, there is one.

For those who like a tricky brain teaser and aren't too picky about interesting characters or emotional realism.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-285-336-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

DREAM TOWN

An old-fashioned gumshoe yarn about Hollywood dreams and dead bodies.

Private investigator Aloysius Archer celebrates New Year’s Eve 1952 in LA with his gorgeous lady friend and aspiring actress Liberty Callahan. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb shows up and offers to hire him because “someone might be trying to kill me.” “I’m fifty a day plus expenses,” he replies, but money’s no obstacle. Later, he sneaks into Lamb’s house and stumbles upon a body, then gets knocked out by an unseen assailant. Archer takes plenty of physical abuse in the story, but at least he doesn’t get a bullet between the eyes like the guy he trips over. A 30-year-old World War II combat veteran, Archer is a righteous and brave hero. Luck and grit keep him alive in both Vegas and the City of Angels, which is rife with gangsters and crooked cops. Not rich at all, his one luxury is the blood-red 1939 Delahaye he likes to drive with the top down. He’d bought it with his gambling winnings in Reno, and only a bullet hole in the windscreen post mars its perfection. Liberty loves Archer, but will she put up with the daily danger of losing him? Why doesn’t he get a safe job, maybe playing one of LA’s finest on the hit TV show Dragnet? Instead, he’s a tough and principled idealist who wants to make the world a better place. Either that or he’s simply a “pavement-pounding PI on a slow dance to maybe nowhere.” And if some goon doesn’t do him in sooner, his Lucky Strikes will probably do him in later. Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the not-so-distant era when everybody smoked, Joe McCarthy hunted commies, and Marilyn Monroe stirred men’s loins. The 1950s weren’t the fabled good old days, but they’re fodder for gritty crime stories of high ideals and lowlifes, of longing and disappointment, and all the trouble a PI can handle.

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1977-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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