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Sendker’s considerable knowledge of China is not enough to overcome too much philosophizing by self-consciously sensitive...

German novelist Sendker’s second novel (Whispering Shadows, 2015) about a German-American former journalist battling crime in China.

Readers of the author's previous book will be glad to find the protagonist, Paul, leading a quiet life on the island of Lamma, a ferry ride from Hong Kong. He's still grieving for his dead child, but his relationship with travel agent Christine has deepened. After a reading from her astrologer, Christine fears she will bring harm to Paul. Paul visits the astrologer himself to assuage her concerns but is unsettled by the astrologer’s three-sentence prophecy (which is annoyingly withheld from readers for almost 200 pages). Then Christine receives a letter from her older brother, Da Long, whom she’d always assumed died during the Cultural Revolution, around the time she and her mother escaped the mainland to Hong Kong 40 years ago. He asks for help and wants to see her, so Paul accompanies her on what is supposed to be a 48-hour visit. They learn that Da Long’s wife has fallen mysteriously and incurably ill, and so have other neighbors in Da Long’s village as well as the local cats. When Christine returns to Hong Kong as scheduled, Paul stays behind, ostensibly to support Da Long during the visit from a Shanghai neurologist arranged by Da Long’s estranged but politically connected son, Xiao Hu. In fact, Paul begins investigating his suspicions that a factory may be poisoning the water in the nearby lake. He enlists help from Da Long’s daughter, Yin-Yin, a music student, and her journalist friend, Wang. But in his righteous anger, Paul ignores cultural differences as well as the cost to Chinese citizens who speak out against power. He also pays less attention than he should to what's happening in Christine’s life until circumstances force him to realize what matters most.

Sendker’s considerable knowledge of China is not enough to overcome too much philosophizing by self-consciously sensitive characters and a plot that holds few surprises.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9367-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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