A sometimes-excessive but humorous tale for mystery lovers and foodies.

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FIRST CORPSE

THE APPETIZER

From the Layne Stevens series

In Toeller’s debut romance, when a food maven finds a dead body in an armoire in her hotel room, she and a handsome FBI agent are on the case—and a suitably confusing case it is.  

The FBI and its German equivalent, the BKA, are desperate to find a particular, tiny computer chip before the bad guys do—one that could be used to cause global economic and political catastrophe. Layne Stevens, the attractive and endearingly klutzy star of her own TV cooking show, is in San Francisco gathering material for an upcoming episode about appetizers when she happens upon the aforementioned corpse. A crack FBI team, led by agent Ryan Cooke, swoops in and secures the crime scene. Layne and Ryan quickly fall in lust, then in love, against a backdrop of chaos and suspicion. Just who are the villains behind the killing, who are controlled by a mysterious entity called “The Employer”? Always lurking nearby is mysterious sharpshooter Sonny Wright, who’s adept at blending into crowds, and later, it appears that an agent may have gone rogue. Things come to a head when Layne and Ryan go to a safe house in the sticks, which turns out to be not so safe at all. As the story goes on, the surprises keep coming, and Toeller shows off an exuberant prose style throughout. However, this exuberance can sometimes spill over into self-indulgence, with occasional sophomoric sexual innuendos and dildo jokes. However, readers who have a high tolerance for the improbable and enjoy a traditional happy ending will like this story, which is the first in a planned series. There are some genuinely amusing scenes, such as a dinner at the Rue de Rêves restaurant with eccentric chef Philippe Degasse. Also, Toeller really does know her recipes—a plus for those who want to test their palates. 

A sometimes-excessive but humorous tale for mystery lovers and foodies.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9970647-0-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Cliff House Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

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.

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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