ALMOST SURELY DEAD

A nimble and eerie thriller.

A woman is attacked on the New York City subway, and subsequent attacks reveal that she’s being targeted.

A pharmacist who’s the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, Dunia Ahmed leads a quiet life that’s quickly upended after a man tries to throw her onto the subway tracks. When Dunia calls for help, other riders fight the man off, only for him to throw himself in front of an oncoming train in a haze of black smoke. Two years later, Dunia is missing, and the host of a murder podcast seeks to retrace the terrifying events leading up to her disappearance. Between these two points, first-person narrator Dunia recounts what happened after the initial attack—including being stalked by her ex-fiance and suffering additional attempts on her life—and tries to figure out who in her life might also know her would-be assassins. As a child, Dunia was a sleepwalker and frequently spoke to imaginary friends; her sleepwalking returns after the first attempt on her life, prompting her to worry about her mental health. Interspersed with this narrative are flashbacks to when Dunia was 5 and her father had a heart attack and died in front of her, which she always felt that her mother and sister blamed her for. She was close to her father, who told her stories about the legendary jinn. Some short chapters consist of podcast interviews with people who knew Dunia before her disappearance, including her friends, her ex-fiance, the police officer investigating her case, and Zabir, a cousin by marriage who teaches South Asian studies, including a course on jinn. Akhtar’s novel has one foot set firmly in folklore and the other in fast-paced action as Dunia questions whom she can trust and what she will have to do to survive. Though the suspense is real, Akhtar deftly weaves in levity with the campiness of the podcast, and the earnestness of Dunia’s voice keeps the reader rooting for her to outrun her demons.

A nimble and eerie thriller.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781662507571

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mindy's Book Studio

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

THE ATLAS MANEUVER

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Cotton Malone, who just can’t stay retired from international intrigue, joins the mad dance of competitors for a fortune in bitcoin.

So many people have forgotten about the horde of gold the retreating Japanese hid on Luzon Island in the Philippines that it’s not at all clear who has legal title to it. That’s perfect for Robert Citrone, the retired CIA overseer of the Black Eagle Trust, which has used the gold to fund covert operations around the world. Just as Derrick Koger, the European station chief for the CIA, is pulling Malone away from his Copenhagen bookstore to help him investigate possible misdeeds swirling around Luxembourg’s Bank of St. George and its ruthless chief operating officer, Catherine Gledhill, other interested parties turn up in often surprising connections. Freelance assassin Kyra Lhota executes Armenian oligarch Samvel Yerevan and moves on to her next target. Malone’s sometime lover Cassiopeia Vitt is snatched by high-ranking Japanese security chief Aiko Ejima. His former lover Suzy Baldwin resurfaces as Kelly Austin, BSG’s director of special technology, who’s concealing secrets from Malone and the rest of the world. They’re all on the trail of a fabulous cache of bitcoin that in the absence of any legal records of ownership will belong, like the Luzon gold, to anyone who can track it down and grab it. The grandly scaled complications that follow feature countless broken alliances and the deaths of a fearsome number of nonfranchise characters. An extended author’s note explains what’s historically accurate (quite a bit, as it turns out) and what’s fabricated (quite a bit more).

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781538721032

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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THE FURY

More style than substance.

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Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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