LUCKY BASTARD

Deftly written, mordantly cynical send-up of a bed-hopping Kennedyesque scoundrel, charming in his own way, who thinks he’s JFK’s illegitimate child and so resolves to run for the Presidency. The ninth novel from McCarry is but a small step removed from his worldly-wise eight-volume Paul Christopher spy series (Shelley’s Heart, 1995, etc.). Through Dmitri, a former KGB colonel living in happy, post-Communist exile in America, we meet Jack Fitzgerald Adams, a cowardly, good-looking, sexually prodigious liar from Tannery Falls, Ohio. Recruited by the KGB while attending Columbia University during the era of the Vietnam War protests, Jack is eagerly led by Dmitri’s diabolically intelligent superior, a suavely satanic Åbermensch known as Peter, into the kinky clutches first of radical Marxist Greta FÅrst, who has torrid sex with him in public places, and then into those of brainy Harvard MBA (and secret fanatic Communist subversive) Morgan Weatherby, who has almost no sex in him at all. After Peter flashes Jack incriminating photos of his sexual exploits, Jack agrees to marry Morgan and practice law back in Ohio with his best friend, crippled Vietnam vet Danny Miller. But alas, unbeknownst to Danny, Jack had raped Danny’s wife, Cindy, while Danny was overseas. Unsure whether it was Danny or Jack who got her pregnant, Cindy had aborted the fetus and has hated Jack ever since. Though Morgan wrings the truth from her, this betrayal by Jack anticipates his ever larger and more audacious acts of fraud, carelessness, and sexual license as his KGB handlers (now working for the Chinese) craft him into a populist hero for an easily seduced electorate. Nasty Kennedy-Clinton parallels abound in a ribald, snickeringly ironic political fantasy. McCarry dedicates Lucky Bastard to the late Richard Condon, whose dizzy, over-the-top social satires it resembles. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-44761-X

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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