Despite much political blather, a rather conventional debut whodunit—the first in a series—with ample misdirection but not...

SWEET POISON

The Duke of Mersham’s dinner party has not been going well. His younger brother, car enthusiast Edward, invited to partner Hermione, poisonous stepdaughter of newspaper baron Lord Weaver, has not arrived by the time dessert is served, and the other guests are struggling to tolerate one another. Pacifist bishop Cecil Haycraft can barely abide WWI hero General Sir Alistair Craig VC, and Hitler confidant Helmut von Friedberg and rising conservative politician Peter Larmore are no more inclined to tabletop diplomacy than echt capitalist Lord Weaver. When Edward finally arrives after a car collision, he’s hitched a ride with darling Verity, who is—gosh—a reporter for the Daily Worker. They’ve barely sat down to eat when the general sips his port, turns blue, and dies from cyanide poisoning. Why murder the general when he was terminally ill with cancer? Perhaps the general himself meant to kill someone else, but incontinently reached for the wrong glass. Edward and Verity, in an odd-couple pairing, sort through motives and means, though they’re briefly sidetracked by communist party politics; von Friedberg’s recall to Berlin; a few torch songs offered by Lord Weaver’s “protégé”; and the near-death of Hermione, found next to the body of her drug supplier. There will be more fatalities and more scandals unearthed before Edward drives off in his newly repaired Lagonda automobile and the fetching Verity refuses party demands that she report to fascist Spain.

Despite much political blather, a rather conventional debut whodunit—the first in a series—with ample misdirection but not much depth.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7867-0819-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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