Vandiver’s debut, which launches a character-driven series, has plenty of local color and interesting tidbits on Creole...



A small-town girl returning to her roots becomes a reluctant sleuth.

Romaine Wilder, who’s lost her job as a Chicago medical examiner and ended her affair with a married man, returns to East Texas to live with the aunt who raised her. Auntie Zanne is French Creole; the owner of a successful funeral home, she’s a small-town busybody whose plans for Romie don’t include a return to Chicago. They return to her childhood home at the funeral parlor to find Zanne’s dearest friend, Josephine Gail Cox, extremely upset and almost nonresponsive, standing in the pouring rain as Romie’s cousin, Sheriff Pogue Folsom, arrives to investigate a possible murder. Josephine may be depressed, but she knows which dead bodies belong in funeral homes and which ones don’t, and the one she found in the basement, cause of death unknown, ready to be cremated does not belong. With Pogue, who suspects Josephine of the killing, set to leave for training and the local medical examiner sick, Romie and Zanne take over the investigation. While she tries to keep Zanne’s worst impulses in check, Romie gets reacquainted with old friends and meets some new ones. She’s pressed into helping Zanne with a local festival and making crawfish pies for the band Zanne’s sponsoring. The identification of the dead man by his fingerprints gives the odd couple a sharper focus in their quest for clues. Uncovering the secrets everyone wants to remain hidden is just what Romie and Zanne need to do to solve the crime.

Vandiver’s debut, which launches a character-driven series, has plenty of local color and interesting tidbits on Creole history though not much of a mystery.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63511-349-5

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Henery Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?