Like a canal, lovely but shallow.

THE NARROWBOAT SUMMER

Two women use a narrowboat to discover what they truly want in this easygoing road-trip tale.

Eve has just been let go from the corporate job she’s been striving at for 30 years. Sally has just left her husband, not out of anger but boredom. Both women, in the prime of their midlives but unsure what they wish to do now, find themselves on the same towpath by the canal in a town near London when they hear a dog barking his head off on a nearby narrowboat. Freeing and subsequently losing the dog is how they meet his owner, the enigmatic Anastasia, a woman of the canals who is in need of a serious medical procedure. Anastasia has to stay in town to be near the hospital, but her beloved boat, the Number One, needs to be driven up to Chester for repairs. Despite having just met, it seems like kismet, and Eve and Sally agree to take the boat while Anastasia stays at Eve’s apartment. As the two women wind their way north, they meet people, learn about the boat, and find out more about who they truly are. Youngson has populated this journey with so many interesting characters: Arthur, who appears and disappears as he pleases; Billy and Trompette, young lovers Eve and Sally keep bumping into; Owen, the taciturn shop owner they’re taking the boat to. Having two women whose lives are adrift be surrounded by far more attention-grabbing folks is, unfortunately, a missed opportunity. Sally's and Eve’s personal journeys just never quite match up to the backstories of their new friends. While the tale is a lovely little meander, it’s a shame the most exciting things happen off page.

Like a canal, lovely but shallow.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76461-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

OCEAN PREY

No oceans in Minnesota, you say? That won’t stop Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, who are clearly determined to burn through their bucket list on the federal government’s dime.

The murders of three Coast Guard officers chasing a suspicious boat in Florida waters by crooks who set fire to the boat moments after abandoning it send shock waves through the DEA, the FBI, and eventually the U.S. Marshals Service. In short order Lucas and his colleague and pal Bob Matees find themselves on a task force Florida Sen. Christopher Colles convenes to find the drugs the fugitives managed to dump into the Atlantic before they shot their pursuers and arrest everyone in sight. The duo’s modus operandi seems to be to talk to everyone who’s seen anything, and then talk to everyone they’ve mentioned, and so on, taking regular breaks to drink, reminisce, and swap wisecracks. Everything is so relaxed and routine that fans of this long-running series will just know that Sandford has something more up his sleeve, and he does. Eventually the task force’s net widens to make room for Virgil, who, working with Marshal Rae Givens, hires himself out to the criminals as a diver who can retrieve those drugs while Lucas and his allies work their way higher and higher up the food chain of baddies. The cast is enormous and mostly forgettable, but Sandford manages to work up a full head of steam when Lucas realizes that his scorched-earth tactics have put Virgil and Rae in serious danger.

Sprawling and only intermittently suspenseful till that last act: below average for this distinguished series.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08702-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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