Capsule reviews

WHISKEY BEACH. By Nora Roberts. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 484 pages. $27.95.

It’s just a given: Readers expect Nora Roberts books to be fabulously entertaining.

“Whiskey Beach” isn’t. It’s not bad by any means, but it doesn’t reach the bar Roberts has set over the years.

One of the reasons Roberts’ books are so enjoyable is that the characters and stories are anything but cookie cutter. Her stories are filled with distinct, robust personalities and circumstances.

Eli Landon, Abra Walsh and their story aren’t quite generic, but they are familiar and a little flat.

Landon is just listless and lost after a year of being the main suspect in his cheating, estranged wife’s murder.

Walsh is a relentlessly positive thinker whose abusive former boyfriend stalked, raped and almost killed her three years ago. Now Landon has left his legal practice to be a writer and Walsh has left her executive career to be a yoga instructor, massage therapist, housekeeper, jewelrymaker and cocktail waitress. They’re healing at Whiskey Beach.

Add in someone sneaking around the family home, an injured grandmother, a dead private detective, a lost pirate treasure and a search for the truth about who really killed Landon’s wife.

That’s a lot of elements for one book, and nothing really gets fleshed out. It’s well-written with some of Roberts’ usual snappy conversation, but there’s nothing that makes “Whiskey Beach” special.

THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME. By Holly Goddard Jones. Touchstone. 372 pages. $24.99.

Stories of misery, however well-imagined, well-plotted and well-told, are still stories of misery.

“The Next Time You See Me” centers on a small Kentucky town where apparently nobody simply lives and enjoys their existence.

From the death of local party girl Ronnie Eastman, ripples keep expanding as we see inside the awfulness of the lives of characters such as the teen who found Eastman’s body in the woods but instead of reporting it kept returning to the site to observe the effects of decomposition.

There are many characters involved in this story, and most of them are doormats, the entitled, bullies or factory workers in dead-end lives. And nobody gets a happy ending.

Even for the few characters who can claim mental and emotional stability, what Holly Goddard Jones shows us is their pitifulness and sadness, what’s lacking in their lives.

“The Next Time You See Me” will keep you turning the page because it is well-written and the characters feel absolutely honest, but it blows right past poignant to disturbing, depressing and sometimes just disgusting.

Reviewer Carol Edwards is a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County.