In this short novel, Labbé plays an intricate game of appearance and reality, though his game-playing hits the head rather...


A novel at once transparent and opaque, a paradox characteristic of much metafiction.

At the level of story, we seem to know what’s happening...most of the time. In January 1999, the two children, Alicia (14) and Bruno (19), of a prominent Chilean couple vanish from Matanza, a town on the coast of Chile. Just a day before what seems to have been their abduction, a journalist had interviewed the father, Jose Francisco Vivar, a well-to-do businessman who made his fortune in the video gaming industry. His wife, an illustrious journalist, was equally shaken by the children’s disappearance, and all signs point to a mysterious figure, Boris Real, a young Chilean executive, as the abductor. Boris Real is not his real (no pun intended) name—it’s an alias for Francisco Virditti and even later seems to be an alias for yet another character, a Congolese named Patrice Dounn, who plays that bizarre instrument the theramin and whose concert the Vivars had attended the last evening they saw their children. But wait—it turns out that in an underground laboratory, the journalist who interviewed the father is involved in a strange creative-writing game. This journalist has a code name, “Domingo,” and the six other players are also named after the days of the week in Spanish. In email exchanges, they’re creating a novel and keep retelling the story of Alicia and Bruno’s disappearance; in many versions of the story, Bruno turns up in untoward and unexpected places—at a bar, for example—and, years later, Alicia is seen working as a waitress in a cafe.

In this short novel, Labbé plays an intricate game of appearance and reality, though his game-playing hits the head rather than the heart.

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-934824-92-4

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Open Letter

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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