Discombobulating—in a good way.


Twenty years after her last novel (Terminal Velocity, 1997, etc.), Boyd returns with a wildly ambitious page-turner that defies easy categorization.

It’s been years since we last saw Boyd's old protagonist, Ellen Burns: Now it’s 1999, and Ellen—stable and sober—is living a quiet life in Charleston, caring for her aging mother, who’s struggling with dementia. That is, until Page 8 (the book wastes no time). And then one night, after Wheel of Fortune, Ellen is startled by a familiar face on the TV news. A young mother in New Mexico has been kidnapped; her children are missing. Ellen knows that face, though she hasn’t seen it in years: It’s Ruby, her brother’s daughter, now all grown up. Not that Ellen has seen her brother, either: According to the FBI, Royce Burns is dead. Once a celebrated novelist, Royce became a fervent white supremacist, abandoned his multiethnic family, joined up with an underground terrorist organization, and was killed as part of a face-off with the feds. Or at least, that’s what they’re telling her—though she buried his ashes in a child-sized coffin, Ellen herself has never been totally convinced of his death. And so Ellen, both totally plausible and larger-than-life, finds herself rushing to Ruby’s home in New Mexico, still loyal to the idea of her family despite her brother’s crimes. But as she digs into the case alongside rugged police chief Ed Blake, she discovers Ruby’s story—and Royce’s—is even darker and more disturbing than she’d suspected. A gentle romance with Ed bubbling hesitantly in the background, Ellen sets out on a quest to find out the truth about her brother— and is forced to grapple not only with the crimes of her family, but with her own culpability as a white woman, Royce’s sister or not. Unexpectedly light, even chatty, given the subject matter—white supremacy, unspeakable violence, American extremism—the novel is a family drama with all the flourishes of a thriller.

Discombobulating—in a good way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-067-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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