Discombobulating—in a good way.

TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN RACIST

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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

PRETTY THINGS

The daughter of a grifter plans to fund her mother’s cancer treatment with a revenge con.

Rich people suck, don’t they? Nina Ross found this out in her adolescence, when her romance with Benny Liebling was broken up by his status-obsessed, old-money father, who found them screwing in the guest cottage of the family’s Lake Tahoe estate. Back then, Nina had a future—but she’s since followed her con-artist mother into the family business with the help of a handsome blue-eyed Irish confederate named Lachlan. “Here’s my rule,” Nina tells him. “Only people who have too much, and only people who deserve it.” Of course, he agrees. “We take only what we need.” With her art history background, Nina is usually able to target a few expensive antiques they can lift without the rich dopes even noticing they’re gone. But now that Nina's mother is hovering at death’s door without health insurance, she’s going after the $1 million in cash Benny mentioned was in his father’s safe all those years ago. So back to Lake Tahoe it is. The older Lieblings are dead, and Benny’s in the bin, so it’s his sister Vanessa Liebling who is the target of the complicated caper. Vanessa is a terribly annoying character—“I couldn’t tell you how I went from a few dozen Instagram followers to a half-million. One day, you’re uploading photos of your dog wearing sunglasses; and the next you’re begin flown to Coachella on a private jet with four other social media It Girls…”—but, in fact, you’ll hate everyone in this book. That is surely Brown’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2017, etc.) intention as she’s the one making them natter on this way. She also makes them vomit much more than is normal, whether it’s because they’re poisoning each other or because they’re just so horrified by each other’s behavior. Definitely stay to see how it all turns out.

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-47912-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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