‘Secluded cabin for six people’ by Lisa Unger. Park Row, 400 pages, $27.99
The dark woods, miles from the nearest town, with, of course, a secluded cabin rented out to family and friends created the gripping storyline of Lisa Unger’s 20th novel. But this group will not be off the grid. Unless it’s a private chef and bartender, a well-stocked kitchen and bar, plus the ability to film a popular online yoga class in a well-appointed luxury home, it’s a great choice. is your idea of off-grid.
In “Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six,” Unger’s multi-layered plot succinctly takes the story in different — and totally unexpected — directions to arrive at a surprising ending that’s as stunning as it is believable. “Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six” works well as a domestic thriller and locked bedroom mystery with elements of a ghost story included. Added to this is a nasty storm.
Family relationships – some strong, some toxic – and the myriad secrets each character harbors are at the heart of “Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six.” As one character sums it up, “Family – it’s complicated…linked imperfectly but indelibly.”
Those who will be spending time in this secluded cabin are Floridians Hannah and her husband, Bruce; his brother Mako and his wife, Liza; and Hannah’s best friend, Cricket, and her new boyfriend, Joshua.
The Georgia getaway has been planned for months by the demanding Mako, who earns that nickname with his cocky, alpha attitude. (His real name is Michael.) A tech mogul, Mako never lets Bruce forget that his brother-in-law works for him and charges Hannah and Bruce a low rate to rent his old house.
The trip has barely begun when everyone wonders what they know about each other. Marriages and friendships are at stake and an unusual story links them all. The reclusive owner of the property spared no expense in the construction of the house, including the various cameras that allowed him to monitor his tenants. The spooky chef is happy to tell the dark history of the property. A violent storm knocked down trees and knocked out electricity, preventing everyone from leaving.
Unger escalates the tension with each reveal about the characters’ motivations. “Secluded cabin for six people” can make people think twice about going on vacation with others. Hopefully Unger will write another 20 captivating novels.
“The Doll’s Wheel” by Jonathan Ames. Mulholland, 224 pages, $26
Jonathan Ames deftly mixes a tough, gritty approach with hints of sardonic wit on his second outing with “security expert” Happy Doll. “The Wheel of Doll” works well as the story of a man grappling with his own frailties and his past.
Using the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald as models, Ames delivers a decidedly contemporary story about the “messy kingdom” that drives people.
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‘The Wheel of Doll’ opens in January 2020 – remember when that month felt like the start of a big year? Doll also hopes her business will pick up.
Enter client Mary DeAngelo, who wants Doll to find her mother, Ines Candle, who has been homeless for several years in Olympia, Washington. Mary has a personal reason for wanting this Los Angeles-based detective to find her mother rather than hire an Olympia. detective.
Years before, Doll had dated Ines, saving her from a suicide attempt before she vanished from his life. Doll cared about Ines and wanted to help her if he could. Doll’s journey to Olympia takes an unusual route, fueled by betrayals, lies, greed, and just plain mean behavior.
Happy Doll – her parents “didn’t mean it to be a joke” – is not the most attractive protagonist, with a self-destructive nature, prone to fights even when not necessary. But he tries to do the right thing, even if he’s acting “out of a twisted notion of justice,” and he fiercely loves his little dog, George, who is part chihuahua, part terrier. (Don’t worry, George is unharmed throughout.)
Ames packs “The Wheel of Doll” with a myriad of action scenes that enhance its solid storytelling.
Jonathan Ames (“The Wheel of Doll”) will be among the Miami Book Fair authors, miamibookfair.com. Ames, Jonathan Evison (“Small World”), Jess Walter (“The Angel of Rome and Other Stories”) and Antoine Wilson (“Mouth to Mouth”) will be in conversation with Gio Gutierrez, curator of the Booze and Books Club, a group experiential social for readers, at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Miami Dade College/Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami, Building 1, Second Floor Auditorium.
Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at email@example.com.