Apples Never Fall

by Liane Moriarty

Kirkus Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance. Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter. Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Set in Sydney, Australia, this engrossing psychological thriller from bestseller Moriarty (Nine Perfect Strangers) centers on Joy and Stan Delaney, who have been married for 50 years and are discontented in their retirement. Joy often fantasizes about their four grown children giving them grandchildren to help them out of their rut. One night, a young woman appears at the Delaneys’ door. Introducing herself as Savannah, she claims she’s a victim of domestic abuse and has the injuries to show for it. The couple welcome Savannah into their home, where she soon becomes a permanent guest. Eventually, the Delaney children notice oddities in Savannah’s behavior and suggest it may be time for her to leave. Tension builds between Joy and Stan, and suddenly she vanishes. The police and two of the Delaney children believe Stan is responsible for her disappearance as he won’t talk about it. Moriarty expertly delves into the innermost thoughts of each of the children, exposing secrets unbeknownst to each other; artfully balances the present-day plot with revealing backstory; and offers several different possibilities for what happened to Joy. Only the overlong conclusion disappoints. Moriarty’s superb storytelling continues to shine. (Sept.)

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