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Review: ‘The Winner’s Crime’ by Marie Rutoski

young adult

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutoski; Farrar Straus Giroux, 402 pages ($17.99). Ages 12 and up.

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Marie Rutoski continues the edge-of-your seat suspense and complex political intrigue of “The Winner’s Curse” in this second installment of her trilogy set in a vividly realized fictional ancient world (and perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore’s “Graceling” books).

The complications deepen now that Kestrel, daughter of a Valorian general, is engaged to Prince Verex, heir to the Valorian Empire, an arrangement she entered into in hopes of saving the Herrani people and Arin, their governor.

Kestrel is involved in a dangerous balancing act as she must attempt to influence Valorian strategies without revealing her feelings for Arin or her revulsion at Valorian cruelty. (In one scene, she is taken to a dungeon where a Herrani prisoner is being tortured in a most inventive and hideous way.)

Rutoski does a marvelous job with the complicated plot and also with the small details, of secret communication in colors of thread or dead moths left on a painting and the luxuries of empire, a dessert fork crafted from spun sugar.

The ending is a cliffhanger; readers will eagerly await the final installment.

– Jean Westmoore

THRILLER

Little Black Lies by Sandra Block; Grand Central Publishing (352 pages, $15)

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Sandra Block’s compelling debut, “Little Black Lies,” is the epitome of the psychological thriller as the author delves deep into the inner makeup and subconscious of her heroine while maintaining an exciting plot. “Little Black Lies” also works as a heartfelt story about families and how secrets can both pull people apart or keep them safe.

The adage “physician, heal thyself” could easily apply to Dr. Zoe Goldman, a psychiatry resident at a Buffalo hospital. When she was 4 years old, Zoe was adopted by a loving couple after she was rescued from a fire in which her mother died. Her nightmares about that fire lasted for years but eventually stopped when she was in high school. But now the dreams have returned and neither she nor her therapist understands why. Zoe’s life certainly has become more complicated. Her adopted mother suffers from dementia, her love life is in flux and she is having a hard time relating to her latest patient – Sofia Vallano has been institutionalized since she was 14 years old for having murdered her mother 20 years before.

“Little Black Lies” delivers an intriguing look at how one’s subconscious can propel a person’s actions as they come to grips with reality. Block, a neurologist, shows the inner workings of a hospital. The camaraderie between Zoe and her colleagues is realistically portrayed.

The serious plot gets an extra boost from a soupcon of humor and Zoe’s multilayered personality.

“Little Black Lies” sets a high standard.

Oline H. Cogdill, Sun Sentinel

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