A sprawling tale of persecution and hysteria set in the vivid world of New York City’s Victorian era.

THE WITCHES OF NEW YORK

Old New York shows its magic and its darkness in McKay’s (The Virgin Cure, 2012, etc.) latest novel.

It wasn’t easy for 17-year-old Beatrice Dunn to make it to Manhattan in 1880, but she experienced a pull to the city that felt otherworldly. Open to witchcraft and magic, Beatrice makes her way to Tea and Sympathy, a small tea shop near Madison Square Park that specializes in more than just the newest brew. Its owners, Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair, provide a variety of services to their predominantly female clientele, including access to marital aids and abortifacients. While the women who come into the shop are seeking the means to control their own destinies, the shop’s unique product line makes it a target of religious fanatics and zealots aiming to rid the world of evil and witchcraft. The atmosphere becomes even more dangerous with Beatrice’s arrival; it is discovered that she possesses the power to communicate with the dead. Though Adelaide and Eleanor help her learn the intricacies of her gift, her ability places her in grave danger. With a remarkable cast of characters—from the obsessive and maniacal Rev. Townsend, who aims to rid society of witchcraft, and the occasionally helpful ghost of his victim, suspected witch Lena McLeod, to the talking raven, Perdu, and a cast of mysterious and meddlesome creatures called Dearlies who inhabit the tea shop—McKay has crafted a stunning work that bridges the gap between historical and contemporary women's issues. The novel is ambitious in its scope yet still delves deep into the thoughts and motivations of characters who normally exist on society's outskirts—or even beyond the earthly realm. Working alongside the women’s suffrage movement, these “witches” demonstrate that there are many routes to take toward freedom and autonomy. While Tea and Sympathy seeks to be a refuge for women in need, paranoia and fear of the unknown are sweeping through the city’s most devoutly religious circles. The novel is brimming with the spirits of those who have been lost to others' devotion and fear, and McKay's elegant prose bridges the gap between the real world and the spiritual realm with skill and compassion.

A sprawling tale of persecution and hysteria set in the vivid world of New York City’s Victorian era.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-235992-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

CODE NAME HÉLÈNE

A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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