A traditional Western that embraces the clear division between right and wrong, the role of the hero, and the power of...



A marshal, a minister, and a group of drifters confront a powerful rancher and an ambitious businessman over a woman’s murder in a 19th-century California town.

In this debut novel, Burch draws on classic Western tropes to build a complex narrative about the fight between right and wrong. When a woman’s body is found in a lake near the town of Emerald, marshal Mason and minister Emmett set out to solve her murder, and their fight for justice brings them up against ruthless rancher Moss and developer Traeger, who maintain control over the town and many of its residents. When Trace, Jade, and Crystal—a white man and two African-American women, all accustomed to fighting for themselves and living on the road—arrive in Emerald, they bring their weaponry skills and complicated sense of ethics to the conflict as well. The many characters’ histories—Emmett’s career in a Wild West show, Traeger’s rebellion against his father, etc.—are gradually revealed, providing explanations for the plot’s many complexities, and everything comes together in a traditional shootout on the streets of Emerald. The writing suffers from lack of editing, however, including misused punctuation, incorrect verb tenses, and awkward prose: “It was a subtle and unconscious thing, but not unnoticeable, that Mason addressed Billy first and directed his question to the foreman as well.” While the primary and secondary characters are far more diverse than in many traditional Westerns, they are often reduced to stereotypes (as in one character’s “hot Mexican temper”), and Jade and Crystal remain “exotic” beauties until their histories and personalities are developed in the book’s second half. The book still succeeds in developing a strong sense of place that evokes Bonanza and John Wayne movies.

A traditional Western that embraces the clear division between right and wrong, the role of the hero, and the power of redemption, though the resulting narrative needs a bit more polish.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1480912076

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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

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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

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