These interlinked narratives evoking Britain’s lockdown-altered reality are a triumph of economy and insight.

THE FELL

At the height of the pandemic lockdown, an experienced hill walker fails to return from an evening hike—then a prohibited activity—in her beloved Peak District in northern England. As her teenage son and elderly neighbor wait anxiously for bad news, a rescue party combs the treacherous moors.

As lockdown restrictions confine most people to their homes, Kate—a divorced 40-year-old single mother—wonders, “When did we become a species whose default state is shut up indoors?...We’re a living experiment, she thinks, in the intensive farming of humans, [though] it’s all in the name of safety, not profit.” This thought arises as she sets out for an illicit walk from her house up to the wild hills known as the fell. She leaves her 16-year-old son, Matt, and her phone behind, thinking that she won’t be gone long, but takes her well-equipped backpack, because even this somewhat distracted woman knows how unpredictable her native terrain and weather can be. Meanwhile, Alice, Kate’s elderly neighbor, is enduring not only lockdown isolation, but also the memory of a recent bout with cancer and the possibility that it's returning—and, what’s more, the vital but nonetheless irksome kindness of neighbors and family. “There’s a limit to how grateful you want to be, how helpless you want to feel, and she passed it a while ago. I was a whole person, she wants to say, I worked my way up, managed a team and a budget.” Matt, by contrast, is the voice of youth here, home alone and afraid for his mother’s safety. The fourth voice in this expertly woven narrative skein is that of Rob, the divorced father of a petulant teenage daughter and a patient man who—once Kate disappears—will search the hills all night as he and the other members of his rescue squad have done so many times before. In a familiar routine, they “clip on their radios, turn on the head torches, heft the rucksacks and set off up the track. Raindrops fall like sparks in the torchlight.” This portrait of humans and their neighboring wild creatures in their natural landscape and in their altered world is darkly humorous, arrestingly honest, and intensely lyrical.

These interlinked narratives evoking Britain’s lockdown-altered reality are a triumph of economy and insight.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-3746-0604-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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A thoughtful exploration of one thief’s motivations and relationships, featuring a healthy dose of romance and suspense.

NIGHTWORK

A lifelong thief needs to pull off one last job—while getting revenge and keeping the woman he loves safe.

When Harry Booth was only 9 years old, he became a thief. With a cancer-stricken mother and bills piling up, it was his only option. But as he gets older and keeps breaking into homes—what he calls his “nightwork”—he realizes he possesses an unusual skill for it. Harry can pick any lock, slip into any home, and navigate even the highest tech security system. The nature of his work makes it hard for him to settle down anywhere, so after his mother’s death, he travels around the country, never staying in one city long enough to become suspicious. In New Orleans, though, he makes connections and finds a familylike bond with fellow thief Sebastien. But when he joins Sebastien on a job for a dangerous client named Carter LaPorte, Harry’s life changes forever. Harry moves on and tries to start a low-key life as a college student in Chapel Hill, where he falls for an aspiring writer named Miranda Emerson. But LaPorte isn’t ready to let go of Harry, and he uses threats to Harry’s aunt—and Miranda—to force Harry into working for him again. Harry abandons Miranda and spends years on the run. That is, until he finally gets the chance to take LaPorte down—with Miranda’s help. Roberts takes her time setting up Harry’s character and his motivations, making it easy for the reader to sympathize with a thief who has a code of honor and a deep love for his family. But since the first half of the book is largely an exploration of Harry’s character, the story drags a bit. Once Harry and Miranda’s love story starts in earnest and LaPorte reappears, the plot picks up. The story’s strength, however, lies less in the thrill of Harry’s break-ins and more in the complexities of his touching relationships with his mother, his quirky phone-psychic aunt, Sebastien, and Miranda.

A thoughtful exploration of one thief’s motivations and relationships, featuring a healthy dose of romance and suspense.

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7819-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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