You know it’s a politicized time when the bad guy in a King novel loses points not strictly for being evil but for “living like Donald Trump.”
“It’s always darkest before the dawn,” King cheerfully reminds us at the very outset of this work of mayhem and murder, closing a trilogy devoted to retired detective Bill Hodges and investigative partner Holly Gibney. Yes, it is, and “darker than a woodchuck’s asshole,” too, reminding us that we’re in King’s New England, where weird things are always happening. Bill—well, his real first name is Kermit—has a doozy of a case from the very start: those weird things leapfrog back to the first volume, to a time, seven years before the present, when the perp of the so-called Mercedes Massacre drifted off into comaland. Throughout the trilogy, King has both honored and toyed with the conventions of hard-boiled crime fiction, and it seemed as if he’d be staking out that genre as his own; now, though, he steers back into the realm of horror that for sure belongs to him, for the baddie, Brady Hartsfield, who had merely been an incest-committing mass murderer before, has now acquired psychic powers and is experimenting merrily with ways to convince the innocent to kill themselves—and perhaps worse. Having lost some mobility, Brady is deeply ticked off—and, as King writes, “Being in a situation like that, who wouldn’t want to kill a bunch of people?” Right, and it’s up to Kermit/Bill and Holly to stop “Z-Boy,” as he’s now calling himself, from further mischief, very much more easily said than done. Suffice it to say that heavy machinery—having been run over, King hates cars, and having grown up when he did, he doesn’t have much use for gizmo technology, either—figures into both the crime and its cure, and suffice it to say that both are exceedingly messy.
Gleefully gross. And a few of the principals even outlive the tale, meaning there’s hope for a sequel, assuming King wants to play with the definition of trilogy, too....
An exciting, thorough account of how Norwegian resistance, with help from the British, scuttled Nazi attempts to build an atomic program.
The steady focus of this suspenseful work of research by accomplished nonfiction author Bascomb (The New Cool: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team, and the Ultimate Battle of Smarts, 2011, etc.) is Vemork, a Norwegian hydroelectric plant on the Mana River. The author weaves together several strands regarding this top-secret 1943 Norwegian-British mission to dismantle the part of the Vemork power station that was producing heavy water, a severely condensed substance that the Nazi physicists were beginning to understand might help lead to the production of an atomic bomb. Soon after the invasion of Norway by the Nazis in April 1940, Norwegian scientist and professor of atomic chemistry Leif Tronstad, a fervent patriot, caught on to the Germans’ sudden interest in increasing the production of heavy water. Working through the British Secret Intelligence Service, Tronstad was able to direct the commando operation on Vemork from the safe resistance headquarters in London. Bascomb’s intricate story involves two teams of commandos organized under Britain’s Special Operations Executive, both of which dropped into Norway in late 1942: the Grouse team, led by Jens-Anton Poulsson, would act as the advance unit, carrying radios and support, and the Gunnerside team of saboteurs, led by Joachim Rønneberg, would infiltrate the plant at night and perform the delicate demolition before escaping on skis through the snowy valley. Bascomb carefully examines the significance of the plant in the entire scheme of Allied victory as well as the perilous fates of the men and their families. Ultimately, he asks, “if the Germans had fashioned a self-sustaining reactor with heavy water, what then?”
Featuring excellent characterization and exquisite detail concerning a theater of the war (Norway) not well-mined, this will make a terrific addition to World War II collections.
A groundbreaking work on the central role of housing in the lives of the poor.
Based on two years (2008-2009) spent embedded with eight poor families in Milwaukee, Desmond (Sociology and Social Science/Harvard Univ.; On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters, 2007, etc.) delivers a gripping, novelistic narrative exploring the ceaseless cycle of “making rent, delaying eviction, or finding another place to live when homeless” as experienced by adults and children, both black and white, surviving in trailer parks and ghettos. “We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty,” writes the author. Once rare, eviction is now commonplace for millions of Americans each year, most often as a result of insufficient government support, rising rent and utility costs, and stagnant incomes. Having gained unusual access to these families, Desmond immerses us in the lives of Sherrena Tarver, a teacher-turned-landlord who rents inner-city units to the black poor; Tobin Charney, who nets more than $400,000 yearly on 131 poorly maintained trailers rented (at $550 a month) to poor whites; and disparate tenants who struggle to make rent for cramped, decrepit units plagued by poor plumbing, lack of heat, and code violations. The latter include Crystal, 18, raised in more than two dozen foster homes, who moved in with three garbage bags of clothes, and Arleen, a single mother, who contacted more than 80 apartment owners in her search for a new home. Their frantic experiences—they spend an astonishing 70 to 80 percent of their incomes on rent—make for harrowing reading, interspersed with moving moments revealing their resilience and humanity. “All this suffering is shameful and unnecessary,” writes Desmond, who bolsters his stories with important new survey findings. He argues that universal housing vouchers and publicly funded legal services for the evicted (90 percent lack attorneys in housing courts) would help alleviate this growing, often overlooked housing crisis.
This stunning, remarkable book—a scholar’s 21st-century How the Other Half Lives—demands a wide audience.
When his estranged friend and fellow corporate spy for hire Ben Webster disappears in the republic of Georgia, Ike Hammer puts his life at risk searching for him in the treacherous mountains bordering Russia.
It's been 10 years since the 58-year-old Hammer was in the field. He heads back out with great reluctance, furious at his morally crusading partner for putting their company at risk. In the capital city of Tbilisi, amid riots, bombings, and madness, Hammer is in way over his head. He's a wealthy and resourceful man, but this is one place where neither his money nor his promises can buy off the cops, government officials, and mobsters who threaten to imprison or kill him for sniffing around. He finds an oasis of humanity in the person of Natela, the widow of the murdered journalist whose funeral Webster went to Georgia to attend. Not until Hammer forges deep into the mountains and is helped by other kind souls does he discover both the real heart of Georgia and missing pieces of himself. Jones is in complete control with this, his third novel featuring Webster and Hammer. In the previous two, The Silent Oligarch (2012) and The Jackal's Share (2013), Hammer played a supporting role. Here, he proves himself a lead player of great appeal, combining deep intelligence with just the right amount of dash.
Suspenseful from start to finish, with plenty of regional color informing the narrative, Jones' third spy thriller is a flawless piece of storytelling.
Dysfunctional siblings in New York wig out when the eldest blows their shared inheritance.
In an arresting prologue to this generous, absorbing novel, Leo Plumb leaves his cousin’s wedding early, drunk and high, with one of the waitresses and has a car accident whose exact consequences are withheld for quite some time. To make his troubles go away, Leo pillages a $2 million account known as “The Nest,” left by his father for the four children to share after the youngest of them turns 40, though in a sweet running joke, everyone keeps forgetting exactly when that is. Leo’s siblings have been counting heavily on this money to resolve their financial troubles and are horrified to learn that their mother has let Leo burn almost all of it. A meeting is called at Grand Central Oyster Bar—one of many sharply observed New York settings—to discuss Leo’s plans to pay them back. Will Leo even show? Three days out of rehab, he barely makes it through Central Park. But he does appear and promises to make good, and despite his history of unreliability, the others remain enough under the spell of their charismatic brother to fall for it. The rest of the book is a wise, affectionate study of how expectations play out in our lives—not just financial ones, but those that control our closest relationships. Sweeney’s endearing characters are quirky New Yorkers all: Bea Plumb is a widowed writer who tanked after three stories that made her briefly one of “New York’s Newest Voices: Who You Should Be Reading.” Jack Plumb, known as “Leo Lite” in high school to his vast irritation, is a gay antiques dealer married to a lawyer; truly desperate for cash, he becomes involved in a shady deal involving a work of art stolen from the ruins of the World Trade Center. Melody, the youngest, lives in the suburbs in a house she’s about to lose and is obsessed with tracking her teenage twins using an app called Stalkerville. The insouciance with which they thwart her is another metaphor for the theme of this lively novel.
A fetching debut from an author who knows her city, its people, and their hearts.
A biracial teen seeks justice for her murdered father in Prohibition-era Oregon
The daughter of a white woman and an African-American man whose marriage was not recognized by the law, 16-year-old Hanalee has few legal rights during the 1920s, an era of extreme intolerance exacerbated by the ever present specter of racial violence from the Ku Klux Klan. Hanalee’s father, “the last full-blooded Negro in Elston, Oregon,” was struck and killed by a drunk-driving teenager a year earlier. When the teen is released from prison, he tells Hanalee that the doctor who tended to her father the night of the accident is the real killer—the doctor who just happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather. With clear parallels to Hamlet, Hanalee struggles to uncover the truth about her father’s death, hoping the truth will protect her and those she loves and put her father’s wandering soul to rest. A fast-paced read with multiple twists, the novel delivers a history lesson wrapped inside a murder mystery and ghost story. Winters deftly captures the many injustices faced by marginalized people in the years following World War I as well as a glimmer of hope for the better America to come.
A riveting story of survival, determination, love, and friendship
. (Historical mystery. 14-18)
Morgan follows up her slim, keening debut (All the Living, 2009) with an epic novel steeped in American history and geography.
As a boy, Henry Forge determines to turn the land his aristocratic Kentucky family has planted with corn for generations into a farm for racehorses. Henry grows into an arrogant, hard man, imbued with the unthinking racism and sexism of his haughty father and unnaturally focused on his only child, Henrietta. Before she leaves him, wife Judith loudly voices the novel’s seething strain of bitterness about the lot of women in this world, but her anger is nothing compared to the rage of Allmon Shaughnessy, an African-American man who enters the story in the early 2000s, when Henrietta and he are both in their 20s. Backtracking to trace Allmon’s past, Morgan’s gothic tale of Southern decadence deepens into a searing investigation of racism’s enduring legacy. Allmon’s ailing, hard-pressed mother and her father, a storefront preacher and veteran civil rights activist, are notable among the teeming cast of brilliantly drawn secondary characters who populate the bleak saga of an intelligent, sensitive boy with zero prospects; by the time he’s 17, Allmon is in jail, where he discovers the knack with horses that gets him hired on the Forges’ farm. A few years go by, Henrietta and Allmon become lovers, but there’s little hope of a happy future for such damaged people. A series of five brilliant riffs called Interludes anchor this modern tale in a vast sweep of geological time and the grim particulars of Allmon’s ancestor, a runaway slave named Scipio. The consequences of the Forges’ brutality and pride come home to roost in an apocalyptic climax just after their extraordinary filly Hellsmouth runs the 2006 Kentucky Derby; it’s entirely appropriate to Morgan’s dark vision that it’s not the guiltiest who pay the highest price.
Vaultingly ambitious, thrillingly well-written, charged with moral fervor and rueful compassion. How will this dazzling writer astonish us next time?
In her adult fiction debut, Les Becquets (Season of Ice, 2008, etc.) writes of a woman lost in the wild and the woman who tries to save her, alternating chapters between their two compelling voices.
When Amy Raye Latour leaves her weekend hunting companions to strike out on her own and bag an elk with nothing but her bow and arrows, she soon finds herself at the mercy of the elements and the animals of the Colorado wilderness. Ranger Pru Hathaway, along with her search-and-rescue dog, responds to reports of Amy Raye’s disappearance, and over the weeks that follow, she scours the land for evidence of what may have happened to the hunter. Both women are mesmerizing characters. Flawed, injured, fierce, and passionate, their love and respect for the world around them showcase one of the novel’s themes: that in the cruelest places, there lies the capacity for “that beautiful aching moment of how the world could be.” Both Pru and Amy Raye come from lives of great loss, and these sorrows and mistakes are explained as back story, but they both find healing in the expansive land of the West. Another obvious achievement of the novel is the writing; Les Becquets’ prose is as spare, haunting, and nuanced as the wild landscape she brings to life. The reimagining of a romantic West through the experiences of two strong women both challenges the dominant stereotype of “cowboy country” and simultaneously offers the comment that gender has no place when it comes to matters of survival. It is the human capacity for endurance that is celebrated here, the capacity for friendship, for love, for loyalty, and for living against the odds.
A transcendent, breathless exploration of the darkest depths of loneliness and the unbreakable human spirit.
A fond memoir of life with a prolific writer of science fiction and pornography.
Screenwriter (True Blood, Weeds) and essayist Offutt (No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home, 2002, etc.) describes his father, Andrew, as “fiercely self-reliant, a dark genius, cruel, selfish, and eternally optimistic.” In the opening chapters, the author charts his father’s declining health and grave prognosis from alcohol-induced cirrhosis, which spurred the author to return home to Kentucky in the midst of his own divorce. Offutt delves deep into his father’s history as a former traveling salesman who carted his family around to sci-fi conventions and who harbored a temperamental persona with a penchant for creating alter egos. Beginning with an Old West novel written when he was just 12, Andrew was in many ways “an old-school pulp writer” whose early novels, penned in the hushed privacy of a locked home office and often under pseudonyms, helped finance Offutt’s desperately needed orthodontia. Upon his death in 2013, the mother lode of his father’s squirreled away gemstones, coins, and assorted clutter was unearthed, but it was the 1,800 pounds of manuscripts and papers bequeathed to Offutt that exposed Andrew’s true nature and later career as a “workhorse in the field of written pornography.” The author’s father produced an incredibly imaginative oeuvre of hard-core graphic erotica, from ghost porn to inquisition torture, incrementally (and chillingly) escalating in violence against women as time went on—something Andrew believed prevented him from becoming a serial killer. Admitting to his mother that his “Dad was the most interesting character I’ve ever met” speaks volumes about not only the kind of father Andrew was to his son, but also the kind of son Offutt became because of (and in spite of) the things he’d been taught.
Though his relationship with his father was distant, melancholic, and precarious, Offutt quite movingly weaves his personal history into a fascinating tapestry of a compulsive writer with a knack for the naughty.
A girl struggles to break the cultlike bonds tying her and her siblings to their tyrannical, religious father.
Castella Creswell, a white teen called Castley, and her five siblings have always been ruled by the word of God as taught by their father. He makes them study not only the Bible, but his own book of revelations. They live in the woods and have been taught that they are the only pure people left and will be married to one another in a heavenly ceremony. But at 17, Castley has begun to question her father’s rule and wonders if her siblings do too. Though punished to the point of abuse, her brothers and sisters defend their father and the visions of fire and brimstone that guide him—even when he tells them that they’ll all soon be called home to God. And the only way to be called home to God is to die. Castley’s forays into normal high school life are both delicious in their rebellion and heartbreaking in their revelations. As the siblings reckon with their faith in their father, they clash within and with one another, and it’s a breathtaking, gut-wrenching coming-of-age saga from all sides. Readers will be swept into the Creswells’ claustrophobic world and ache for them long after it’s set aflame.
A harrowing, pulpy page-turner along the compulsive lines of Flowers in the Attic.