NEO-HISTORY

A Georgetown private investigator searches for a dead professor’s last manuscript in Hock’s (Jumbled Marionette Strings, 2013) second novel.

Wylie Wainwright, newly licensed as a PI and newly dumped by his girlfriend of five years, gets his first big case from Pioneer Publishing. One of its authors, a renowned historian and university professor named Al Finkel, has been found dead, and his final work has gone missing. The publishers gave Finkel a large advance, so they need to publish the book to make back their investment. Although the police haven’t yet called Finkel’s death a homicide, Wylie begins to suspect foul play when he interviews Finkel’s family, colleagues and teaching assistant. It turns out that there’s a movement to repeal the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which would allow people to sell themselves into slavery to get out of debt, and it’s gaining traction in some political circles. Finkel’s new book could influence the debate, as it would likely oppose such a change. Wylie soon realizes that some people might go to great lengths to keep such a book from publication, and finding Finkel’s lost manuscript could have implications far beyond the publisher’s bottom line. This novel’s premise is unique, and Wylie is a well-drawn character. However, the plot’s philosophical, economic and historical details start to become convoluted as the story progresses, and the action never ramps up; Wylie and his cohorts are never in any real danger. The secondary characters, including Wylie’s best friend, Carter, and the teaching assistant, are one-dimensional; Carter is little more than a party animal, and the only descriptions of the TA focus on her looks. Wylie’s former love, who features heavily in his thoughts, doesn’t even get a line of dialogue when she finally appears. Also, the text’s many misused words (including “discrete” for “discreet,” “piece” for “peace” and “shoe-in” for “shoo-in”) become distracting. A thought-provoking concept for a mystery novel, but with little action to support it.

 

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0989048828

Page Count: 254

Publisher: MountainLion Press

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2014

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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