A work with a compelling hook and fine character development, although its lack of resolution is disappointing.

THE ENCANTO

LA FOG

Several Angelenos become embroiled in identity crises following contact with a strange artifact in this SF novel.

Mega-rich tycoon Evan York, 67, has spared no expense or trouble to track down a Mayan relic he calls the Encanto. But something goes wrong during the handover, and the seller, Luis Luna, is later found dead, beaten to death with a baseball bat by a paraplegic man in a wheelchair. Investigating the case is police detective Saul Parker, an avid amateur magician who’s acutely conscious of his weight. Meanwhile, 36-year-old Gray Wilson dreams of quitting his job as a “code-writing robot” in a cubicle to take up painting again, although he’s in denial about his drinking problem and his family is in financial straits ever since his wife, Claire, quit her job to take care of their young daughter. Claire suffers from insomnia and spends her days in an exhausted haze; one of her few recreations is following the career of Ashley York—Evan’s daughter, who’s a Paris Hilton–like aspiring actress. It’s just one of many connections that form between the novel’s many players. Wayob, a sinister, murderous figure connected with the evil Encanto, interferes in these disparate lives, creating confounding intersections as part of his own diabolical plan. In his second SF novel, Swan offers an intriguing premise that centers on the mysterious artifact. The book’s chief strength, however, is not in how it details the paranormal elements but in how those elements serve characterization. Swan lays crucial groundwork early, sketching out players that are multifaceted, complex, flawed, and struggling to grasp their hearts’ desires. He then ups the ante by shaking up their existences and making the characters fruitfully reexamine their identities, relationships, and choices. The novel ends, however, with many loose strings dangling—too many, really, even for the first book in a planned series.

A work with a compelling hook and fine character development, although its lack of resolution is disappointing.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9965605-3-5

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Swanfall

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more