A mesmerizing blend of suspense and long-buried family secrets, Gottlieb’s second novel (after 1997’s The Boy Who Went Away) culminates in shocking revelations that rock a quiet upstate New York town. Nick Framingham is still reeling from the recent death of his childhood best friend, the writer Rob Castor, who committed suicide after killing his ex-girlfriend in Manhattan. Nick’s own marriage to his college sweetheart, Lucy, begins to unravel as he struggles to understand what drove Rob to murder. Rekindling an old relationship with his first love, Belinda, Rob’s volatile and beautiful sister, Nick begins to retrace not only Rob’s last days but also their shared childhood, looking for clues to explain his friend’s actions. Gottlieb skillfully ratchets up the suspense by doling out the details of Rob’s death in bits and pieces, until everything falls into place in a startling conclusion that will rattle even the genre’s most experienced readers. With his pitch-perfect dialogue and flawed yet empathetic characters, Gottlieb’s sophomore effort should win him widespread recognition.
Chinese exile Liang, who fled her country after participating in the Tiananmen Square protests, makes an impressive debut with this understated mystery set in the late 1990s, the first in a prospective series. After resigning from the ministry of public security, Mei Wang launches a private investigative agency, a technically illegal business in China, much to her family’s dismay.After an old family friend, ‘Uncle’ Chen Jitian, hires Mei to track down a jade seal from the Han dynasty, previously believed to be destroyed, Mei and her assistant, Gupin, follow slim leads to a shady dealer who might have connections to the same museum collection supposedly incinerated by the Red Guard. Readers familiar with Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs will find many parallels between that independent and unconventional PI and Mei. Mei’s challenging family life nicely complements the puzzle of the missing jade and the shifting Chinese political climate.
With his first full length novel, this talented young writer has succeeded in producing both a detailed psychological study of a young naÃ¯ve girl’s transition into a fully fledged confident woman and a true reflection of Russian character and behaviour of the last 35 years.