Sufficient mystery nearly overshadowed by stellar character subplots and a sweet but realistic father-daughter reunion.


Gunning For Angels

A Phoenix PI and the teenage daughter he just learned he had find themselves embroiled in deception, murder, and human trafficking in Lewis’ debut thriller.

The latest drunken rant from Enid Iglowski’s mom comes with a shock: Enid’s father isn’t really her father. Enid tracks down her biological dad, Jack Fox, a private eye working in Arizona. Jack had no idea Enid existed, and he doesn’t know what to do with her. Plus, he’s already got enough on his plate: Jeni Hargrove hires him to find her real mother, while her wealthy sister Eve pays Jack to drop Jeni’s case. Detective Bud Orlean, meanwhile, may have a break in Daniel Hargrove’s presumed murder. Daniel, the sisters’ stepfather, has been missing for over three years; someone mailed a few body parts, including a heart, to the cops, but police have found what could be the rest of him. As Jack starts a dangerous relationship with Eve, he wonders why another private eye is following him—and who’s behind another, more recent murder. Despite Jack’s job, the murder investigation takes a back seat to an elaborate, albeit continually fascinating, soap opera. There are shades of a detective story: dark family secrets, more than one femme fatale, and Enid’s going undercover at a home for wayward girls to get some dirt on the Hargroves. But drama abounds, overwhelmingly so: Bud’s wife, Bunnie, threatens to divorce him if he won’t retire, and son Chip drops out of med school to become a writer; Petunia, with whom Jack had an affair, doesn’t seem to want to leave him alone; and Enid is terrified that Jack will hate her, but the stubborn girl doesn’t make liking her very easy. Rather than identifying a killer(s), the story eventually becomes more about who’s having (or wants to have) sex with whom. Enid is initially exasperating—she’s not above tantrums or milking others for sympathy since she was the result of a one-night stand—but she’ll grow on readers. Meanwhile, the banter and heated arguments between Jack and Enid are typically funny, almost endearing. She clearly wants a father, and his care for her is unmistakable. Lewis also drops in a few surprising turns both for the murders and the intermingling soap-operatic stories.

Sufficient mystery nearly overshadowed by stellar character subplots and a sweet but realistic father-daughter reunion.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990610809

Page Count: 384

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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