Swarms of butterflies and hummingbirds, a jaguar on a leash, a hero who's writing himself into existence, beneficent ghosts of ancestors—all the trappings of post-Borges magic realism are gathered in this undeniably derivative and yet often quite funny, quirky meditation on Mexican-American relations, the politics of epidemics and the uses of history. To pack all that into a mere 200 pages, Morales foreshortens, stylizes, and truncates plots and characters, creating a series of rigid allegorical tableaux with the static vitality and crudeness of a barrio mural. In Book One, Dr. Gregorio Revueltas, a physician sent from Spain to Mexico in 1788 (significant date), seeks a cure for a plague ravaging the colony. Spanish oppression of the natives, the Inquisition's persecution of indigenous curanderos, exacerbate the suffering. Only after the outbreak of the French Revolution does the plague, wrought by microbes and compounded by human stupidity, subside. In Book Two, Chicano doctor Revueltas (ca. 1950-85) works in a southern California barrio clinic where violence, drugs, and AIDS are the names of the plague, again both viral and social in its origins. This chapter is the least satisfactory. AIDS is too close and too complex and Morales hasn't thought about it enough. His lack of grounding even in the medical facts undermines his fantasy. Book Three is set in the late 21st- century world of LAMEX, a rigidly stratified hi-tech society that includes both L.A. and Mexico City. The sci-fi social satire is full of vivid scenes and liberating inventions—every pharmacy, for instance, carries the cures for AIDS and cancer. The plague now is environmental. It comes from the sea, and when it strikes, whole cities perish overnight. Another Dr. Revueltas reads his ancestors' plague-year diaries and, fortified by his sense of the past, discovers not only a cure for this plague but a way to turn the social order upside down, putting the poorest Mexicans on top for a while. Morales (The Brick People, Death of an Anglo—both 1988) offers a novel that exhibits the very qualities it celebrates: energy, hopefulness, a reverence for roots.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55885-036-8

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1991

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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