A dark, unsettling character study.



A young man proves to be a quick learner when it comes to killing and drug trafficking in Darby’s (The Beacon Brothers, 2017, etc.) rural crime novel.

Seth, a Midwestern farmworker, crouches in waist-high corn as he witnesses a stranger kill another man. The fearful young man stays hunkered down for hours, then runs to his truck only to find the killer sitting in it. He demands that Seth drive him first to Kansas City to connect with his cohort Vienna (“Like the sausages”) and then, eventually, to Montana. But first, he wants him to help load not one, but two bodies into the truck. Although initially Seth tries to escape from the unnamed murderer, he soon demonstrates a knack for doing his bidding, and he finds that he likes the money that the man pays him. Eventually, the man convinces Seth to permanently lock an associate in a shipping container and, later still, to kill someone. Once in Montana, Seth and the man’s other underlings (including Isabel, who’s “Indian, maybe a little bit Mexican” and very interesting to Seth) are tasked with traveling the Missouri River for two months in canoes packed with ketamine for a drug deal. For good reason, Seth is wary of his fellow drug traffickers; he also knows the man will kill him, like he killed others, if he disappoints him. Darby excels at describing details, identifying farm weeds as “mare’s tail” and “volunteer wheat,” noting the “plastic-on-plastic clicking sound” of playing video games, and remarking on the “fuzzy yellow cover on the toilet seat” in a low-rent house. The characterization throughout is strong and the pacing is good, with scenes of violence offset by those of the gang having a few beers, cooking spaghetti sauce, and sharing pizza. The yin and yang of loyalty and betrayal run through the novel until its disturbing end.

A dark, unsettling character study.

Pub Date: May 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5212-5281-9

Page Count: 315

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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?