Ersatz characters, featureless prose, departures from formula nil. But to the Follett faithful that's probably good news.

JACKDAWS

Another plumpish thriller from the Follett factory (Code Zero, 2000, etc.), this time featuring a sort of distaff dirty (half) dozen.

They don't come any tougher, smarter, braver, or, for that matter, deadlier than Major Felicity (call her “Flick”) Clairet. Quintessentially female and sexy as all get out, she kills without compunction if that's the way the mission goes. The year is 1944, ten days before the Allied assault on Normandy, and Flick, a world-class saboteur, is attached to a British special operations unit. In France, near Paris, the largest telephone exchange in Europe has to be knocked out if Nazi communications are to be as impaired as the Allies need them to be. Eager for the assignment, Flick, being Flick, is only momentarily nonplussed when she learns she has but a mere two days to recruit a team of six French-speaking Englishwomen, train them to jump out of an airplane, and pass them off as a local custodial staff. In company with Flick, they will then slip by gulled Gestapo guards and into the telephone exchange building in order to blow it to smithereens. Code-named Jackdaw, the hastily assembled team includes a convict awaiting trial for murder, an ex-safecracker with a particular affinity for gelignite, and an engineer who is also a transvestite. Opposing the Jackdaws will be fiendishly clever Major Dietrich Franck, late of Rommel’s staff, who is to captured British intelligence agents what Torquemada was to suspected heathens. And now the game's afoot: jackbooted Nazis against dissembling Jackdaws, devilish Dietrich versus tricky Flick. Bullets fly and blood flows while the fate of D-day hangs, obligatorily, in the balance.

Ersatz characters, featureless prose, departures from formula nil. But to the Follett faithful that's probably good news.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-94628-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2001

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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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