A light touch and appealing style make for a standout beach-read.

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DOWN BY THE WATER

British novelist Upcher, now based on Long Island, debuts here with the story of a real-estate agent and harried mother who hires a nanny—and finds happiness in the Hamptons.

Hope Collins-Calder has houses to show and no time to waste, but she can’t exactly do it with a baby on her hip. Second husband Eddie Calder is no help. An editor in Manhattan, he lives with her mother during the week and commutes to Amagansett on the weekends. The father of her first two children pens multimillion-dollar screenplays in southern California. What Hope needs is a modern-day Mary Poppins; what she gets is Annabel Quick. Annabel is English and highly trained, according to Eddie (who’s also English). What more could anyone want? As it turns out, Annabel is not exactly what any of them had in mind. She’s 47, and her experience with children is limited, despite a long-ago stint at a prestigious nanny academy. But Hope is desperate. Her son Harry, a very serious little boy, seems to think he’s the man of the house; her daughter Coco is a holy terror. In Annabel’s opinion, Coco is hopelessly spoiled, but Annabel keeps her opinions to herself. She’s fleeing the emotional aftermath of a failed midlife love affair and her parents’ death in a fire. Good old English common sense prevails as Annabel learns to take care of the children, although she quietly deplores the workaholic ways of their whippet-thin mother. Minor complications ensue when Hope pays too much attention to her visiting ex, provoking Eddie to commence an affair with his brassy office assistant. Keeping busy, the woebegone but winsome Annabel finds her own love interests: a kindly pediatrician and a hunky contractor who prefers older women. Everything works out eventually—and about as unpredictably as it would in real life. Upcher knits the various strands of this complicated plot very neatly indeed, deftly handling dual points of view and the inevitable cultural conflicts.

A light touch and appealing style make for a standout beach-read.

Pub Date: June 5, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-018568-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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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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THE POET

Connelly takes a break from his Harry Bosch police novels (The Last Coyote, p. 328, etc.) for something even more intense: a reporter's single-minded pursuit of the serial killer who murdered his twin. Even his buddies in the Denver PD thought Sean McEvoy's shooting in the backseat of his car looked like a classic cop suicide, right clown to the motive: his despondency over his failure to clear the murder of a University of Denver student. But as Sean's twin brother, Jack, of the Rocky Mountain News, notices tiny clues that marked Sean's death as murder, his suspicions about the dying message Sean scrawled inside his fogged windshield—"Out of space. Out of time"—alert him to a series of eerily similar killings stretching from Sarasota to Albuquerque. The pattern, Jack realizes, involves two sets of murders: a series of sex killings of children, and then the executions (duly camouflaged as suicides) of the investigating police officers. Armed with what he's dug up, Jack heads off to Washington, to the Law Enforcement Foundation and the FBI. The real fireworks begin as Jack trades his official silence for an inside role in the investigation, only to find himself shut out of both the case and the story. From then on in, Jack, falling hard for Rachel Walling, the FBI agent in charge of the case, rides his Bureau connections like a bucking bronco—even as one William Gladden, a pedophile picked up on a low-level charge in Santa Monica, schemes to make bail before the police can run his prints through the national computer, then waits with sick patience for his chance at his next victim. The long-awaited confrontation between Jack and Gladden comes at an LA video store; but even afterward, Jack's left with devastating questions about the case. Connelly wrings suspense out of every possible aspect of Jack's obsessive hunt for his brother's killer. Prepare to be played like a violin.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-15398-2

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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