Golden State

Stephanie Kegan. Simon & Schuster, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4767-0931-4
With hints of We Need to Talk About Kevin and loosely based on the Unabomber case of the 1990s, Kegan’s (The Baby) novel shows what can happen when mental illness is left untreated. For 12 years, a string of letter bombs has killed or maimed scores of people in California’s university system, and the identity of the person responsible remains unknown. But when 48-year-old Natalie Askedahl reads the manifesto written by the “Cal Bomber” in the paper and recognizes some of her older brother Bobby’s signature rants against technology and big government, she’s torn between turning him in and protecting him. Soon the FBI gets involved, flubbing their search warrant but nonetheless pinning a solid case on an unrepentant Bobby and unleashing a firestorm of publicity. Meanwhile, Bobby’s family members insist he should plead insanity to escape the death penalty. Though this book has some elements of the best courtroom thrillers—an antihero who seems creepily rational, dramatic tension when Bobby insists on handling his own defense at the final hour—some of the plot developments are more predictable than revelatory (such as a troubling detail from Bobby’s childhood and Natalie’s increasingly rocky marriage). Instead of insight into the mind of a killer, we are left with an all-too-common portrait of a family who should’ve seen it coming but chose to look the other way until it was too late. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/15/2014
Release date: 02/17/2015
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4767-0933-8
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-4767-0932-1
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