February 2023

BIOGRAPHY

Prince HarrySpare
Williams, SueUnder her skin

Spare by Prince Harry

Sibling rivalry, fatherly neglect, and the crushing weight of public opinion haunt this anguished, searching, and occasionally vindictive memoir from Prince Harry. Framing the narrative as an attempt to explain why he and his wife, Meghan Markle, fled the U.K. “in fear for our sanity and physical safety” in 2020, Harry begins with Princess Diana’s death in 1997, recounting how he and his brother William were made to walk behind their mother’s coffin “to garner sympathy.” For years afterward, Harry harbored a belief that Diana had disappeared to escape the paparazzi—an illusion that enabled him “to postpone the bulk of my grief.” Made to feel like a “nullity” by his family, he found solace and companionship on safari trips to Africa and boozy nights with friends, but the tabloids turned “basic teenage stuff” into allegations of drug addiction and his father chose “to play ball” rather than fight back. Time and time again, the twin pressures of the royal family and the British media scuttled Harry’s search for meaning and purpose, leaving him beset by panic attacks and self-doubt, until he met Meghan—and then those same specters turned on her. The mix of dirty laundry and earnest soul-baring sometimes jars, but Harry’s frustrations are deeply felt and authentically conveyed, as is the joy he takes in nature and in his friendships. This royal family tell-all delivers. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023

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GENERAL NOVELS

Arnott, RobbieLimberlost
Drysdale, PipThe next girl
Garmus, BonnieLessons in chemistry
Grisham, JohnThe boys from Biloxi
Haughton, EmmaThe sanctuary
Kawakami, MiekoHeaven
Leadbeater, DavidThe demon code
Lefevre, CarolThe tower
Marshall, LauraMy husband’s killer
Mason, MegYou be mother
McCarthy, CormacStella Maris
Reilly, MatthewThe one impossible labyrinth
Rothwell, NicolasRed heaven
Steel, DanielleThe Whittiers
Steel, DanielleWithout a trace
Trollope, JoannaFriday nights
Wolhuter, LouiseAn afterlife for Rosemary Lamb

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Two chemists with major chemistry, a dog with a big vocabulary, and a popular cooking show are among the elements of this unusual compound. At the dawn of the 1960s, Elizabeth Zott finds herself in an unexpected position. She’s the star of a television program called Supper at Six that has taken American housewives by storm, but it’s certainly not what the crass station head envisions: “ ‘Meaningful?’ Phil snapped. ‘What are you? Amish? As for nutritious: no. You’re killing the show before it even gets started. Look, Walter, it’s easy. Tight dresses, suggestive movements…then there’s the cocktail she mixes at the end of every show.’ ” Elizabeth is a chemist, recently forced to leave the lab where she was doing important research due to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Now she’s reduced to explaining things like when to put the steak in the pan. “Be sure and wait until the butter foams. Foam indicates that the butter’s water content has boiled away. This is critical. Because now the steak can cook in lipids rather than absorb H2O.” If ever a woman was capable of running her own life, it’s Elizabeth. But because it’s the 1950s, then the ’60s, men have their sweaty paws all over both her successes and failures. On the plus side, there’s Calvin Evans, world-famous chemist, love of her life, and father of her child; also Walter Pine, her friend who works in television; and a journalist who at least tries to do the right thing. At the other pole is a writhing pile of sexists, liars, rapists, dopes, and arrogant assholes. This is the kind of book that has a long-buried secret at a corrupt orphanage with a mysterious benefactor as well as an extremely intelligent dog named Six-Thirty, recently retired from the military. (“Not only could he never seem to sniff out the bomb in time, but he also had to endure the praise heaped upon the smug German shepherds who always did.”) Garmus’ energetic debut also features an invigorating subplot about rowing. A more adorable plea for rationalism and gender equality would be hard to find. Kirkus Review, April 2022

Three Little Lies by Laura Marshall

In 2017, 30-year-old journalist Ellen Mackinnon, the principal narrator of this riveting if flawed tale of deceit from British author Marshall (Friend Request), is living in a London flat with her best friend, Sasha North, when Sasha goes missing. After receiving threatening letters from Daniel Monkton, the former friend they testified against in a court case in 2007 following a tragic incident at a New Year’s party, Ellen worries that Sasha’s disappearance may be more than one of her usual free-spirited excursions. Ellen’s flashbacks illuminating the curious events of her adolescence that led to Daniel’s trial cast her in a favorable light. In contrast, she appears frantic and needy in her desperate search for answers to the mystery of Sasha’s disappearance, which is overshadowed by the dysfunctional family drama involving Daniel’s parents, who are Sasha’s godparents. The plot takes a number of twists and turns along the way to the somewhat unimpressive conclusion. Still, Marshall does a good job keeping readers in suspense about Sasha’s fate and what really happened at that New Year’s party long ago. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2018

 

Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy

A companion to McCarthy’s The Passenger that both supplements and subverts it. Alice Western—now known as Alicia, her birth certificate changed via her brother’s counterfeiter pal, John Sheddan—is a brilliant mathematician, at work on a doctorate even as a teenager. Her mind has melted, though. In this series of dialogues with a psychiatrist, she reveals herself to be thoroughly self-aware: “Mental illness is an illness. What else to call it? But it’s an illness associated with an organ that might as well belong to Martians for all our understanding of it.” Still, the seemingly very real friend she calls the Thalidomide Kid turns out to be one of many hallucinations that show up to keep Alicia company—an interesting turn, since it seems the Kid also visited her brother, Bobby, in the predecessor novel. Is Bobby’s life also a hallucination, a dream? Perhaps, for Alicia suggests that Bobby may still be lying in a coma following an auto-racing accident in Italy. For Alicia, just 20 years old, mathematics is both a defense and a curse, something she’s given up—not easily, for, as she tells Dr. Cohen, “I think maybe it’s harder to lose just one thing than to lose everything.” One thing that does seem to be uncomfortably real is her incestuous relationship with Bobby, which she reveals to Dr. Cohen in small, enigmatic bits seeded with defiant assertions that her conscience is untroubled: “I knew that I would love him forever. In spite of the laws of Heaven.” Some of her defenses melt a little toward the end, when, having revealed some of the cracks in her psyche, she asks Dr. Cohen to hold her hand—because, McCarthy writes in a characteristically gnomic phrase, “that’s what people do when they’re waiting for the end of something.” A grand puzzle, and grandly written at that, about shattered psyches and illicit dreams. Kirkus Review, December 2022

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HISTORICAL FICTION

Fraser, DarryThe forthright woman
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MYSTERY

Beaton, M. C.Death of yesterday
Bruen, KenA Galway epiphany
Crais, RobertRacing the light
Granger, AnnDeadly company
Gray, AlexBefore the storm
Higashino, KeigoA Death in Tokyo
Horst, Jørn LierThe night man
Jardine, QuintinOpen season
Lancaster, NeilThe blood tide
Marsons, AngelaSix graves
McIntosh, FionaDead tide
Palmer, StuartThe puzzle of the happy hooligan
Piñeiro, ClaudiaElena knows

A Death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino

The fatal stabbing of a prominent businessman in the heart of Tokyo unleashes a fury of scandals. No sooner has Takeaki Aoyagi, head of production at Kaneseki Metals, collapsed on the Nihonbashi Bridge than police spot a possible suspect fleeing the scene. Struck by a car before they can catch him, Fuyuki Yashima turns out to be carrying Aoyagi’s wallet; the dead man’s briefcase is found nearby. Yashima can say nothing in his own defense because he’s in a coma. So Inspector Kyoichiro Kaga and his cousin, Detective Shuhei Matsumiya, of the Tokyo Metropolitan homicide squad, have to be satisfied with questioning Yashima’s live-in lover, Kaori Nakahara, who’s three months pregnant. Yashima, she tells them, had been unemployed since losing his job with Kaneseki Metals under circumstances that turn out to implicate Aoyagi in a shameful coverup and give Yashima a perfect motive for his murder. Though Yashima’s death gives them an excuse to close the case, Kaga and Matsumiya persist in digging deeper and find evidence that Aoyagi had been making the circuit of the Seven Lucky Gods, leaving a flock of origami cranes at the Kasama Inari Shrine. What was his motive for his pilgrimage, and what other foul secrets lie beneath it? Though the alternative explanations for Aoyagi’s murder, unfolding in strict succession, have little to do with one another, Higashino unfolds them with the force of a powerful indictment against the corruption that seems to pervade his great city. The dark side—make that sides—of Tokyo, masterfully revealed. Kirkus Review, October 2022

Racing the Light by Robert Crais

The disappearance of podcaster Josh Schumacher drives MWA Grandmaster Crais’s entertaining 19th novel featuring L.A. PI Elvis Cole and his ex-Marine sidekick, Joe Pike (after 2019’s A Dangerous Man). Josh’s mother, Adele, hires Elvis to find Josh and bring him home. Elvis soon discovers that Josh’s latest story, which involves an adult film star and secrets tying city politicians to a corrupt pay-for-play scheme, has mobilized a vortex of competing interests, including a vicious business cartel, Chinese operatives, and the mysterious Adele’s own personal protection team. Once Elvis tracks down Josh, he’s frustrated by the podcaster’s refusal to let the story go, and matters quickly degenerate into murder and mayhem. As usual, Pike’s involvement is minimal and timely, and the novel further advances the on-again, off-again relationship between Elvis and love interest Lucy Chenier, with several effective scenes between Elvis and Lucy’s son, Ben. While the influence of Michael Connelly is apparent and the pace is somewhat uneven, Crais maintains a humorous tone throughout. This long-running series shows no signs of losing steam. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2022

 

Disaster at the Vendôme Theatre by M.L. Longworth

Set in Aix-en-Provence with detours to Paris, Longworth’s pleasing 10th Provençal mystery (after 2021’s The Vanishing Museum on the Rue Mistral) finds the largely amateur cast of the Théâtre Vendôme’s upcoming production of Marcel Pagnol’s Cigalon all atwitter at the thought of working with real professionals like Liliane Poncet, the once great leading lady of French stage and screen, and Liliane’s costar, Gauthier Lesage, TV actor and guest on various game shows. Gauthier’s arrogance and condescension toward his fellow thespians, however, creates friction. When he’s found strangled in the theater’s storeroom, chaos breaks out. Examining magistrate Antoine Verlaque and his heavily pregnant wife, Marine Bonnet, investigate. Will the show go on, with the town butcher stepping into the leading role? What secrets are the ragtag band of actors hiding? The more pressing questions for readers are when will Martine give birth, and will it be a boy or a girl? As usual, people and place matter more than the coincidence-filled plot. Packed with luscious descriptions of food and flashes of cultural history, this is a fine way to relax in the company of old friends. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2022

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NON FICTION

Lancaster, JordanIn the shadow of Vesuvius 945.73 LANC
Marshall, DebiBanquet 364.1523 MARS
Muir, GloriaBunnan 994.42 MUIR
Tóibín, ColmA guest at the feast 823.912 TOIB
Watson, DonThe passion of Private White 994 WATS
Yong, EdAn immense world 591.5 YONG

An Immense World by Ed Yong

Pulitzer-winning journalist Yong (I Contain Multitudes) reveals in this eye-opening survey animals’ world through their own perceptions. Every animal is “enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble,” he writes, or its own “perceptual world.” Yong’s tour covers vision (mantis shrimp have “12 photoreceptor classes”), sound (birds, researchers suggest, hear in a similar range as humans but they hear faster), and nociception, the tactile sense that sends danger signals (which is so widespread that it exists among “creatures separated by around 800 million years of evolution”). There are a wealth of other senses outside the standard five: sea turtles have two magnetic senses, electric fish generate currents to “sense their surroundings” as well as to communicate with each other, and the platypus’s sensitive bill gives it what scientists think may be “electrotouch.” Yong ends with a warning against light and sound pollution, which can confuse and disturb animals’ lives, and advocation that “natural sensescapes” ought to be preserved and restored. He’s a strong writer and makes a convincing case against seeing the world as only humans do: “By giving in to our preconceptions, we miss what might be right in front of us. And sometimes what we miss is breathtaking.” This is science writing at its best. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2022

 

A Guest at the Feast: Essays by Colm Tóibín

Novelist Tóibín (The Magician) gathers 11 essays that showcase his versatility in this erudite collection of previously published material. In “Cancer: My Part in Its Downfall,” Tóibín reflects on his testicular cancer and the trials of chemotherapy: “the effect of the drug darkened the mind and filled it with something hard and severe and relentless. It was like pain or a sort of anguish, but those words don’t really cover it.” “A Brush with the Law” recalls Tóibín’s earlier career as a magazine editor reporting on the Irish Supreme Court, while “The Paradoxical Pope” profiles John Paul II: “It is not simply the aura of his office that draws people to him but the mixture of his steely strength and his humanity. Also, he was once an actor, and knows about the theater.” In “The Ferns Report,” Tóibín poignantly examines an account of sexual abuse that occurred in the diocese where he grew up. The book closes with essays on literature, including pieces on novelists John McGahern and Marilynne Robinson. Of the latter, Tóibín writes, “With her wide reading and her well-stocked mind, Robinson is also deeply engaged with matters both philosophical and political”; this collection places him in that same class. Tóibín’s fans will relish these sharp reflections. Publisher’s Weekly, October 2022

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POETRY

Bates, GabrielleJudas goat
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ROMANCE

Balogh, MaryRemember love
Dare, TessaThe duchess deal
Hunter, MadelineHeiress for hire
Linden, CarolineAbout a rogue

Heiress for Hire by Madeline Hunter

At the heart of this smart, satisfying Regency romance—the first in a new trilogy from Hunter (Never Deny a Duke)—is the mystery of why a duke would bequeath a fortune to a woman he’d never met. Chase Radnor, gentleman investigator and nephew to the late duke, is instantly suspicious upon meeting newly minted heiress Minerva Hepplewhite. His eccentric uncle’s fall from a parapet looks like murder, and Minerva gained a great deal from his death. The self-reliant young widow also has a dark, secretive past that makes her a perfect suspect. To clear her name, Minerva begins her own investigation into the duke’s death, launching Hepplewhite’s Office of Discreet Inquiries, and she and Chase form an uneasy alliance as they first compete for, then begin to share, clues. Hunter gives the well-matched pair plenty of ground to cover with a wide cast of memorable suspects, and their clever detective work is a consistent pleasure. The plot moves apace, but Chase and Minerva’s relationship is treated patiently, with their attraction simmering alongside mutual respect, and their eventual love scenes are sensitively rendered. Romance readers craving substantive mystery and intelligent leads will savor this pitch-perfect love story. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2020

 

Remember Love by Mary Balogh

Bestseller Balogh (the Westcott series) launches her Ravenswood series with a stunningly emotional Regency romance. Devlin Ware, heir to the Earl of Stratton, appears to come from the perfect family. Every summer, his parents and siblings host a fete for the local community around their estate, Ravenswood Hall, in Hampshire. The summer of 1808 holds special promise, as Devlin discovers that his neighbor Gwyneth Rhys, whom he’s long pined for in secret, believing her to be entangled with his brother, returns his affection. But Devlin’s idyllic world is shattered when he discovers his father’s infidelity. When upstanding Devlin reveals the earl’s bad behavior to society, he’s banished from the family. Forced to leave home, he joins the fight against Napoleon in France—and leaves a broken hearted Gwyneth in his wake. Six years later, a battle-scarred and embittered Devlin returns to claim his inheritance after his father’s death—and though neither he nor Gwyneth have forgotten each other, Devlin’s wounds may be too deep for love to heal. Balogh again proves her mastery of Regency romance, expertly revealing her characters’ psychological depths. This second-chance love story proves impossible to put down. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2022

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SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

Cogman, GenevieveThe dark archive
Riddle, A. G.Lost in time

Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle

Crichtonesque thrillers don’t come much better than this intricate outing from Riddle (The Extinction Trials), which combines a fantastic premise—a time-travel device known as Absolom is used to imprison dangerous criminals in the prehistoric past—with a closed-circle whodunit. One of Absolom’s inventors, Sam Anderson, is visiting his wife’s grave in Nevada with their children, 19-year-old Adeline and 11-year-old Ryan, when he’s wrongfully arrested. He’s charged with killing Nora Thomas, his lover and a colleague in developing Absolom, and Adeline is also implicated. When someone smuggles a message into his holding cell threatening to frame Adeline for the murder if Sam does not confess, he’s forced to submit to the time exile he himself invented. While Sam navigates a harsh past Earth, the bereft Adeline devotes herself to identifying which of the remaining people behind Absolom is the true murderer and finding a way to rescue her father. Riddle keeps the twists coming, including a mind-bending jaw-dropper that sets up the book’s second half. By creating sympathetic and complex characters, the author makes suspending disbelief easy. Readers won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2022

 

The Dark Archive by Genevieve Cogman

In Cogman’s thrilling seventh Invisible Library fantasy (after The Secret Chapter), Irene Winters, a time-traveling and alternate world–jumping librarian, discovers the only thing worse than people trying to kill her is when the people trying to kill her should already be dead. Irene has grown accustomed to disaster striking while she’s in the process of buying (or more illicitly acquiring) rare books for the library, but she’s unprepared to face off against Lord Guantes, who she distinctly remembers killing, and Alberich, a traitor to the library who’s been presumed dead. Somehow they’re both back and gunning for Irene and her lover, Kai, a dragon, and her surly new fae apprentice, Catherine. Worse still—and certainly more insulting—is that they seem to be treating vengeance against her as merely a fringe benefit of a larger and more sinister plot. Without sacrificing the adventure that is a hallmark of the series, Cogman pulls Irene through a multilevel maze of doubts and paranoia that will have readers jumping at shadows, too. Fans will be delighted to find this series still going strong. Publisher’s Weekly, September 2020

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EBOOKS

GeneralJenkins, JoannaHow to kill a client
GeneralKovacic, KatherineSeven sisters
GeneralKubica, MaryJust the nicest couple
HistoricalRichardson, Kim MicheleThe book woman’s daughter
MysteryByrnes, JohnHeadlands
MysteryClarke, GeorginaDeath and the harlot
MysteryColeman, ElizabethA routine infidelity
MysteryYamashita, IrisCity under one roof
Sci-fiMcGuire, SeananEvery heart a doorway
Sci-fiWinters, Ben H.Countdown City

The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson

In this earnest follow-up to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Richardson focuses on 16-year-old Honey Lovett, the daughter of Cussy Mary Lovett, the woman with blue skin whose work for the Pack Horse Library during the 1930s featured in the first installment. Cussy married Jackson Lovett, a white man, and Honey, who inherited an easily concealable version of Cussy’s methemoglobinemia, fends for herself now that her parents have been imprisoned for miscegenation. It’s 1953, and sympathetic friends help keep Honey out of the Kentucky House of Reform, which is bent on holding her until she’s 21. As an effort to achieve her independence, she takes up the traveling librarian job once held by her mother, even riding the same faithful mule, Junia. She also convinces lawyer Bob Morgan to represent her in a bid for legal emancipation, culminating in a climactic courtroom scene complete with damaging testimony from a racist social worker and a misogynist sheriff. Though the story of Honey’s struggle for freedom is a bit formulaic, Richardson excels in her descriptions of the people and places of rural Kentucky. Fans will be delighted to find Cussy’s daughter is just as plucky as her mother. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2022

 

City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita

Unusual topography plays a major role in screenwriter Yamashita’s atmospherically charged debut, a locked-city mystery. Once a secret military base, the tiny city of Point Mettier, Alaska, is reached by land through a narrow, one-way tunnel. Full-time residents live in one self-sufficient high-rise. During eight months of winter, the temperature reaches −35 °F and “eyelashes could actually freeze.” When 17-year-old Amy Lin and friends discover a severed hand and foot in Hidden Cove, where they retreat to smoke pot, Det. Cara Kennedy comes from Anchorage to investigate. That Cara has hidden personal motives for wanting to be on the case raises the tension. Then a blizzard and avalanche block the tunnel, and harrowing secrets and lingering lies surface along with more body parts. The disappearance of a mother and her two sons prompts a search that leads to a spellbinding, unforgettable climax and an unpredictable resolution. Well-defined secondary characters include a roving gang of ruffians on snowmobiles with their own violent agenda. This distinctively original perspective on a “community of stragglers, oddballs, and recluses” heralds the arrival of a major new talent. Publisher’s Weekly, September 2022

 

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

A boarding school offering sanctuary for very special teens is threatened by a series of murders in McGuire’s darkly hypnotic standalone fantasy. Eleanor West has spent her life helping kids who discover secret doors to beguiling worlds and long to return to them. When Nancy arrives at Eleanor’s manor, unrest seems close behind. If only Nancy could return to the Halls of the Dead and the waiting arms of that dimension’s lord, she could be happy, but first she’ll have to help the others track down a killer who’s taking something different from each victim. The students include twins called Jack and Jill; a boy who can speak to bones; and Sumi, Nancy’s roommate, who comes from a world of nonsense and speaks in lilting, looping curlicues of words. McGuire (the October Daye series) puts her own inimitable spin on portal fantasy, adding horror elements to the mix, and her characters are strange and charming. Being different is all these kids have ever known, but as much as they pine for their other worlds, they ultimately find comfort in one another. This gothic charmer is a love letter to anyone who’s ever felt out of place. Publisher’s Weekly, November 2015

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AUDIOBOOKS

GeneralChristie, EmmaFind her first
GeneralSolly, KateTuesday evenings with the Copeton craft resistance
HistoricalWiseman, Ellen MarieThe orphan collector
MysteryAmsinck, HeidiMy name is Jensen
MysteryAshmore, D. L.Ugly business
MysteryCoble, ColleenOne little lie
MysteryJenkins, JoannaHow to kill a client
MysteryHurst, DanielThe couple at table six
MysteryRowell, SimonWild card
MysteryKirby, Robert W.The wrong girl

The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Wiseman (What She Left Behind) chronicles the devastation the 1918 flu pandemic wrought on a German immigrant family in Philadelphia. Pia Lange, 13, lives in a sparse Philadelphia apartment with her mother and infant twin brothers, Ollie and Max, while her father, a soldier who enlisted during WWI to prove his loyalty to the U.S., is fighting in Europe. When the flu hits the city in September, killing Pia’s mother, Pia cares for her brothers in their apartment until they run out of food. She then ventures out for sustenance, and doesn’t return until eight days later after falling ill with the flu. Upon her return, Pia finds her brothers missing and another family living in their home. Pia is taken to an orphanage against her will, and resolves to find out what happened to her brothers, holding out hope they are still alive. Wiseman’s depiction of the horrifying spread of the Spanish flu is eerily reminiscent of the present day and resonates with realistic depictions of suffering, particularly among the poorer immigrant population. Historical fiction fans will appreciate Pia and her pluck and determination to survive. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2020

 

One Little Lie by Colleen Coble

Coble (Sunset Cove) opens her new Pelican Harbor series with this thrilling inspirational set on the Alabama coast and centering on troubled detective Jane Hardy. When Jane’s father retires as sheriff, Jane is appointed his interim replacement. But when her father is arrested for a murder he says he didn’t commit, she must face public scrutiny while trying to clear his name and prove her worth as a woman in a traditionally male role. She begrudgingly enlists the aid of new-to-town documentary filmmaker Reid Dixon, whose calmness under pressure helps her get more information. But little does she suspect they have a shared past in the small town where she grew up. Their sleuthing uncovers an underworld of Alabama cults, and as they investigate, Jane and Reid begin to examine their own demons—and the dark secrets of those they thought they knew. Jane and Reid grow closer, but a lie from the past emerges to threaten their bond. Coble explores themes of the legacy of sin, salvation through faith, and redemption. There are just enough threads left dangling at the end of this well-crafted romantic suspense to leave fans hungrily awaiting the next installment. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2020

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