An unforgettable tale with rich and moving connections, poetic storytelling, and an inimitable style.

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From the Hearing Voices Series series , Vol. 3

A man who hears voices joins a colorful alliance of South Florida eco-warriors.

Shallcross: The Blindspot Cathedral (2014) and Flame Vine (2017), the first two books in this fictional autobiographical series, tell the story of Aubrey Shallcross, a man who sees and hears things others don’t—most notably, slippers: “Homunculus forms, three to four inches tall, from the world of mental cases and mystics.” Aubrey’s chief slipper is Triple Suiter, or Trip, his guardian angel. Trip, Porter, and Aubrey constitute the trinity that narrates this third installment. Aubrey, 50, has nicely recovered from being shot in the head two years ago by his common-law wife Christaine’s ex-husband. Nowadays, Aubrey focuses on the sport of dressage, enjoys family life, takes regular camping trips, and tells bedtime stories to Drayton, his 5-year-old son. When crooked property developer AM Sermon threatens to destroy 1,500 acres of wetlands, Aubrey wants to stop the disaster but doesn’t have much hope. Still, he vows to try when asked by Osceola and Captain Nemo, slippers who protect two alligators called the Dragon and Two-Toed Tom. Also working to prevent the development is Freddie Cowkeeper Tommie, a mixed-race Spanish Seminole who carries on a battle against invasive species in Florida and sometimes rides the gators, one foot on each like a charioteer, while meting out ecological justice. Eventually, others join the struggle, including carnival performers Speedy Tanks and Roberta, the Woman With No Legs. An alliance of people, slippers, and animals comes together to shake Sermon’s conscience and preserve the wilderness, meanwhile revealing a long-standing mystery—the true identity of the Tin Snip killer, who murdered Christaine’s mother.

As in the previous books, Porter employs amazingly inventive, multivalent wordplay that taps into buried meanings. Sometimes these “private cryptonyms” can be puzzling, though once explained, they seem just right. For example, to call something mansion, Aubrey explains to Drayton, means (by extension from big house) “anything that is a big deal or gets a lot of attention.” A poetic economy characterizes this wonderfully original argot, as when an asylum inmate says everyone “told stethoscope lies, and he could hear their hearts beating children.” Beating does double duty here and makes the stethoscope image perfectly understandable: hidden untruths that need special equipment to be detected. This third volume is more accessible than the first two and often humorous, suggesting that Aubrey has settled more comfortably into his life. Porter’s books are always captivating, but this tale gains maturity and depth from the characters’ heartfelt concern for animals and ecology, which they put into rousing action. The work’s presentation of the slippers’ points of view is so compelling that readers may agree when Trip insists that “this is not imagination. It is a reality of a rare and mostly unknown kind.” The root meaning of schizophrenic is split—yet Aubrey seems not divided but multiplied.

An unforgettable tale with rich and moving connections, poetic storytelling, and an inimitable style.

Pub Date: July 9, 2020


Page Count: 260

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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