A small gem—more understated than Nelson’s recent stories, but equally sharp and deeply moving.

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From novelist and short-story writer Nelson (Nothing Right, 2009, etc.), a brief, sorrowfully comic novel about family dysfunction that considers everyone’s contribution—parents, children, spouses, even pets.

Driving alone with her dog, Misty Mueller is in a one-car accident. The dog escapes the overturned car and is adopted by a young woman camping nearby, but Misty, a single mother, dies. When her 15-year-old daughter Cattie gets the news, she runs away from her Vermont prep school. After hiding briefly in Montpelier, she sets off on a cross-country road trip with a troubled but sweet-natured Army deserter and his dogs. In Wichita, Kan., Misty’s childhood friend Catherine has completely lost touch with Misty. In her late 30s now and married to Oliver, a successful, much older entrepreneur with two grown daughters from previous marriages, Catherine is oblivious when Oliver follows the pattern he previously established to exit his first two marriages by beginning an affair with an even younger woman. Without children of her own or a real career, Catherine expends her energy caring for her mother Grace, a former professor who has suffered a stroke. Grace’s mental acuity remains intact despite her inability to speak, and she remains hurtfully critical of her daughter’s passivity and lack of ambition. Then Catherine learns that she has been named Cattie’s guardian and searches her out. Once Catherine finds Cattie, their relationship evolves by sharing memories of Misty. To Cattie, Misty was a tough-minded single mom who provided well for her daughter. Catherine remembers their wild adolescence together: Catherine the rebellious bourgeois, Misty the white-trash girl with no future; while they took risks with drugs and sex, a serial killer remained on the loose nearby. Now, as Catherine eases into the role of her namesake’s guardian, the same killer has resurfaced, and the news surrounding his banal evil creates the backdrop/counterpoint to the characters’ growing understanding of their places in the world.

A small gem—more understated than Nelson’s recent stories, but equally sharp and deeply moving.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59691-575-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

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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THE POET

Connelly takes a break from his Harry Bosch police novels (The Last Coyote, p. 328, etc.) for something even more intense: a reporter's single-minded pursuit of the serial killer who murdered his twin. Even his buddies in the Denver PD thought Sean McEvoy's shooting in the backseat of his car looked like a classic cop suicide, right clown to the motive: his despondency over his failure to clear the murder of a University of Denver student. But as Sean's twin brother, Jack, of the Rocky Mountain News, notices tiny clues that marked Sean's death as murder, his suspicions about the dying message Sean scrawled inside his fogged windshield—"Out of space. Out of time"—alert him to a series of eerily similar killings stretching from Sarasota to Albuquerque. The pattern, Jack realizes, involves two sets of murders: a series of sex killings of children, and then the executions (duly camouflaged as suicides) of the investigating police officers. Armed with what he's dug up, Jack heads off to Washington, to the Law Enforcement Foundation and the FBI. The real fireworks begin as Jack trades his official silence for an inside role in the investigation, only to find himself shut out of both the case and the story. From then on in, Jack, falling hard for Rachel Walling, the FBI agent in charge of the case, rides his Bureau connections like a bucking bronco—even as one William Gladden, a pedophile picked up on a low-level charge in Santa Monica, schemes to make bail before the police can run his prints through the national computer, then waits with sick patience for his chance at his next victim. The long-awaited confrontation between Jack and Gladden comes at an LA video store; but even afterward, Jack's left with devastating questions about the case. Connelly wrings suspense out of every possible aspect of Jack's obsessive hunt for his brother's killer. Prepare to be played like a violin.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-15398-2

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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