THE DAUGHTERS OF BLOCK ISLAND

Great fun for readers who’ve done their background reading and want to try a Gothic Plus.

Two Boston women pay separate yet equally perilous off-season visits to Block Island several fateful months apart.

By the time attorney Thalia Mills gets a letter from Blake Bronson informing her that Blake is the sister she never knew existed, Blake is already dead. She was found with her wrists slit in one of the claw-footed bathtubs in White Hall, the venerable B&B/vineyard/winery kept by Aileen Searles, where Blake, a barely recovering abuser of alcohol and opioids, had gone to confront Maureen Mills, the mother who gave her up for adoption soon after her birth and then pretended she’d never been born. A long flashback to Blake’s visit shows her preparing for the confrontation by spending time with the longtime boyfriend of Maureen’s sister, Fiona, New Shoreham selectman Martin Dempsey, who owns the aptly named restaurant Martin’s Above the Rocks, and his competitor Timmy Graham, of Graham’s Resort, and fighting off their advances. All the while, Blake is falling under the spell of White Hall, which she compares to the haunted settings of The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Rebecca. When the local cops decide that Blake’s apparent suicide was actually murder and place a suspect under arrest, Thalia determines to retrace the footsteps of the sister she never met. The convoluted mystery, in which everyone acts guilty of something because pretty much everyone is, is repeatedly upstaged by what Carmen, in an unusually candid and illuminating afterword, calls her decision to go for “gothic meta,” compelling both her heroines and her villains to play by the rules of the genre even as they recognize their creaky artifice.

Great fun for readers who’ve done their background reading and want to try a Gothic Plus.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9781662512988

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE FURY

More style than substance.

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Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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