Perfect reading for socially distanced shut-ins who’ll be pleased to learn that things could indeed be much, much worse.

THE REVELATORS

Tibbehah County Sheriff Quinn Colson’s 10th appearance finds him hard-pressed to keep his patch of Mississippi in line after his near-fatal shooting in The Shameless (2019) sidelines him in favor of an acting sheriff who’s worse than no help at all.

How much worse? Well, when Quinn’s 12-year-old nephew, Jason, goes AWOL along with his schoolmate Ana Gabriel Hernandez-Ramirez to accept an unsavory invitation to follow the trail of Ana’s mother, one of 53 undocumented workers from the local chicken processing plant rounded up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Brock Tanner won’t issue an Amber Alert. It’s clear that Tanner is uncomfortably cozy with grasping madam Fannie Hathcock, “the queen hellcat of north Mississippi”; with J.K. Vardaman, the good-old-boy governor who’s never met a graft he wouldn’t latch onto; and with the Watchmen, a militia looking to boost their stockpile of weapons. Tanner’s deputies harass Quinn’s kid sister, Caddy, and go even further with activist Hector Herrera. The ongoing battle is complicated this time by the release of Donnie Varner from the prison where he’s served eight years for dealing guns. Readers waiting to see whether he’ll renew his friendship with Quinn, find romance with his old flame Caddy, or end up brokering a massive arms deal for the Watchmen will be treated to another bracing immersion in Tibbehah County’s teeming criminal culture, whose opportunistic alliances between bad guys and the lawmen sworn to protect them would be outrageous if they weren’t utterly routine.

Perfect reading for socially distanced shut-ins who’ll be pleased to learn that things could indeed be much, much worse.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53949-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

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APPLES NEVER FALL

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.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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