Motley stories that engage, provoke, and entertain.




A collection of tales that involve a quirky hodgepodge of comedy, romance, and satire from the author of A Shot of Malaria (2014).

In the opening story in this book, “Silver Slum Dog,” Leonard meets Hilda at a horse racetrack. The new acquaintances seem to connect, but Leonard may be too preoccupied with validating his betting system despite Hilda’s instinctual skill at picking winners—a situation described in a lighthearted tone, which all the tales herein showcase in some capacity but not every story maintains. In “Eloi Reduction,” Red Pupkin, a drunk well known to authorities, is determined to get into a popular Hollywood Boulevard club and simply dashes past the gatekeepers. That amusing setup turns horrifying when a police officer chases him—and encounters a scene of shockingly sadistic violence. Some of the author’s satire shows wit even when it’s bleak. In the case of “The Parable of the Nerd & the Antelope,” antelopes in Africa introduce human ideas into their midst but, like humanity, are soon in danger of spiraling into war and violence. Souby’s breezy prose eases readers into the assorted narratives, though it’s most effective with the handful of varied love stories. The titular tale, “Christa’s Case: A View From the Borderline,” is a romance between prep school students in 1973, one of whom a doctor has diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. This story is followed by one of love lost; in “Attack of the Poker Face,” Teddy is certain he understands how his wife tips her hand, a “little tell with her left nostril whenever she was bluffing,” and he uses this conviction to prove she’s having an affair. Souby periodically returns to a theme of warmongering humans versus the more peaceful animal kingdom; though the collection leans toward despondency, his final two stories end the book on positive notes.

Motley stories that engage, provoke, and entertain. (acknowledgements)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-59169-8

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.


A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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