At once original, poignant, brutal, and beautiful; for fans of literary and historical novels.

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THE BEGINNING OF HIS EXCELLENT AND EVENTFUL CAREER

This historical novel traces the real and imagined exploits of Pancho Villa as a youth, bandito, and hero of the revolution while examining the question of what, exactly, constitutes truth in storytelling.

MacKenzie spins his debut tale in language spiced with just the right hint of a Latin lilt to lend verisimilitude and poetic cadence: “The sky was not clearer then nor was the air of a purer smell but in my memory both these things seem as though they were true and so they are.” This theme of a story being true because of the way it is remembered or told runs throughout; and so we see Villa as everything from abused peasant to brutish thug to fair and respected leader. When barely 16, Villa walks in on a confrontation between his mother and sister and landowner Don Agustín López Negrete. He shoots Don Agustín and escapes into the inhospitable sierra, thus launching him into a world outside the law. During his criminal career, he steals cattle, shoots people, achieves daring escapes, and, depending on what versions you believe, becomes everything from Robin Hood to a sociopath. His fellow bandits are Refugio Alvarado and Ignacio Parra. Ignacio is a drunk, but Refugio, an eloquent speaker who can rouse the peasants against the dons, gives Villa his first inkling of a political outlook on their activities. At last Villa wearies of his brigand life and opens a butcher shop. But the peace is short-lived. He is soon back on the run and assumes his role as a commander of the Constitutionalist Army in the Mexican Revolution, where he now commits noble acts such as sparing the life of the man who killed his mother. MacKenzie’s fascinating literary picaresque is told in stark, beautiful imagery: “The night was vacant and dull, the square silent save for the insects that clicked and chirped back up in the trees like little boxes of metal and bone.”

At once original, poignant, brutal, and beautiful; for fans of literary and historical novels.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 271

Publisher: MadHat Press

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2018

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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 strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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