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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Turow’

The summer books are beginning to roll in, offering diversion for the long, hot months ahead. If you were a fan of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, you’re no doubt longing to dive into her new one, Into the Water (Penguin, purchased hardcover). Alas, I found it a bit of slog, with too many narrators muddying the waters. One even says as much: “How is anyone supposed to keep track of all the bodies around here? It’s like Midsomer Murders, only with accidents and suicides and grotesque historical misogynistic drownings instead of people falling into the slurry or bashing each other over the head.” The most recent victim is Nel Abbott, a single mother who loved swimming and was writing a book about Beckford village’s “Drowning Pool,” where “troublesome women” have perished since the days of witch hunts. Did Nel fall or was she pushed from the cliffs?  It’s not clear, unlike the obvious suicide of schoolgirl Katie, which her grief-stricken mother Louise somehow blames on Nel. Pretty much every one in Beckford has an opinion. The rotating chorus of voices includes, just for starters,  Nel’s teenage daughter, her estranged sister, a secretive copper, his mousy wife, a high school teacher and an elderly psychic. Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine did this Hitchcockian style of suspense and misdirection very well, Hawkins not so much. At least not yet.

Scott Turow is a pro at writing substantive legal thrillers, and Testimony (Grand Central Publishing, digital galley) is further proof as middle-aged Midwest attorney Bill ten Boom heads to the Hague. The rumors of a heinous war crime have circulated for years: In 2004, 400 Romas — Gypsies — living in a Bosnian refugee camp all vanished one night never to be seen again. Now, more than a decade later, a surviving witness has come forward to testify to the circumstances, and it’s up to Boom and a Belgian investigator to determine the truth of his testimony. Were the masked men with guns who herded the villagers into trucks Serb paramilitary, or were they from a nearby American base? The complicated case takes Boone to Bosnia and elsewhere in Europe, and he encounters such fascinating characters as a femme fatale Roma lawyer, a retired American general and a ruthless war criminal with blood on his hands and more murder in mind. Befitting the intricacy of the house-of-cards plot, the pace is mostly measured, even slow, the exception being a heart-stopping kidnapping scene. Things are not what they seem, and so things do not go as planned. But as in the masterful Presumed Innocent, Turow doesn’t miss a trick.

Now for the fun stuff. The late Michael Crichton’s recently discovered and newly published Dragon Teeth (HarperCollins, digital galley) combines the historical suspense of The Great Train Robbery with the ancestors of the featured creatures in Jurassic Park. That’s right, these dinosaurs are dead — fossilized, in fact — and fought over by real-life paleontologists during the “Bone Wars” in frontier America. Fictional Yale student and tenderfoot William Johnson signs on with a dinosaur-digging expedition in the summer of 1876. Left behind in Cheyenne by one eccentric professor,  he joins a rival group going to Montana and encounters gunslingers, buffalo and enough Wild West adventure to fill a book.

Dorothea Benton Frank writes vacations in a book. In Same Beach, Next Year (Morrow, review copy), two couples’ 20-year-friendship is cemented by joint summer visits at Wild Dunes resort in lowcountry South Carolina, but is threatened by jealousy on both sides.  Eliza, who shares narration with husband Adam, knows that Eve, now married to handsome doctor Carl, and Adam were high school sweethearts. What she doesn’t know is that Eve’s witch of a mother, Cookie, drove the young lovers apart, and that sparks still fly between the old flames. Still, the see-saw plot often takes a backseat to the descriptions of the lush landscape, both in the lowcountry and on the Greek island of Corfu, and the delicious dishes concocted by sassy Eliza. (Eve is a terrible cook).

You don’t have to have read Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend to be entertained by his new novel. Rich People Problems (Knopf Doubleday, digital galley). Kwan catches us up quickly on the major characters — Nick Young, who risked disinheritance to marry less well-off Rachel, and his cousin Astrid, desperate to get out of her marriage, and Kitty Pong, insanely jealous of her fashionista stepdaughter Colette. All these people be crazy rich, but the richest of all is Su-Yi, Nick’s grandmother and matriarch of the Shang-Long clan. When it appears that Su-Yi is on her deathbed, family members from near and far rush to her massive Singapore estate, where they can share their rich people problems while waiting to share in the family fortune. It’s all over the top and wildly funny: the people, the clothes, the jewelry, the food, and, yes, even the footnotes.

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octoberI don’t care if the suspense is killing you. Do not — I repeat, do not — skip ahead to the finish of Jeffery Deaver’s oh-so-clever The October List (Grand Central Publishing, digital galley.) Not only will you ruin the end, you’ll also ruin the beginning — because Deaver tells his story in reverse.

So to begin with the end: A woman named Gabriela waits nervously in a Manhattan apartment for word that her kidnapped daughter Sarah has been safely rescued. A man named Sam waits with her; two of his colleagues, Daniel and Andrew, have gone to deliver the ransom money and “the October List” that kidnapper Joseph has demanded. Gabriela stares at a newspaper on the coffee table and tells Sam she has finally figured out what the October list means, but before she can say much more, the door opens. It’s not Daniel and Andrew. It’s Joseph. And he has a gun.

Ok, I’m not giving anything away here, but I expect after you finish the book, you’ll read this first-last chapter again, and maybe several more, marveling at how Deaver has manipulated his puzzle so that you have to reassess the facts over and over again. You’ll learn about a computer nerd who crushes  on Gaby, about two cops who question her about her boss Charles Prescott’s sudden disappearance with company funds; about Joseph’s telling Gabriela he’s got 6-year-old Sarah; about Gabriela meeting movie-star lookalike Daniel in a bar; about a shooting, a fatal accident, a robbery, the blood on Gabriela’s lip, something nasty in a stained plastic bag.  Maybe, just maybe you’ll figure it all out before Deaver pulls the last (or first) rabbit out of his hat. Maybe not. Either way, you’ll have fun. Tricks and treats.

identicalGreek mythology informs Scott Turow’s latest, Identical (Grand Central Publishing, digital galley), so if you’re familiar with the story of twins Castor and Pollux, you’ll be ahead of the game.

In 2008, attorney Paul Gianis is running for mayor of Kindle County while his twin brother Cass is being released from prison after serving 25 years for the murder of his girlfriend, Dita, party-hearty daughter of local tycoon and family friend Zeus Kronen.  But then Zeus’ son, Hal, decides that unlike his late father, he’s not satisfied with Cass’s guilt; he believes Paul was also involved in Dita’s death. Paul sues Hal for defamation, while Hal hires ex-FBI agent Evon Miller and retired homicide cop Tom Brodie to reinvestigate the killing. This unlikely but likeable pair are distracted by personal issues — Evon’s troublesome girlfriend, widower Brodie’s age and health — but prove discerning detectives. The narrative shifts back and forth in time as modern-day forensics and DNA testing mix with family drama and secrets a la Greek tragedy. Classic entertainment.

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