A vivid setting and a devious, deadly plot, though the first is a bit overdone and the second contains a few...

TANGERINE

In 1956, a pair of college roommates meets again in Tangier, with terrifying results.

“At first, I had told myself that Tangier wouldn’t be so terrible,” says Alice Shipley, a young wife dragged there by her unpleasant husband, John McAllister, who has married her for her money. He vanishes every day into the city, which he adores, while Alice is afraid to go out at all, having once gotten lost in the flea market. Then Lucy Mason, her one-time best friend and roommate at Bennington College, shows up unannounced on her doorstep. “I had never, not once in the many moments that had occurred between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the dusty alleyways of Morocco, expected to see her again.” Alice and Lucy did not part on good terms; there are repeated references to a horrible accident which will remain mysterious for some time. What is clear is that Lucy is romantically obsessed with Alice and that Alice is afraid of her. In chapters that alternate between the two women’s points of view, the past and the present unfold. The two young women bonded quickly at Bennington: though Alice is a wealthy, delicate Brit and Lucy a rough-edged local on scholarship, both are orphans. Or at least Lucy says she is—from the start, there are inconsistencies in her story that put Alice in doubt. And while Alice is so frightened of Tangier that she can’t leave the house, Lucy feels right at home: she finds the maze of souks electrifying, and she quickly learns to enjoy the local custom of drinking scalding hot mint tea in the heat. She makes a friend, a shady local named Joseph, and immediately begins lying to him, introducing herself as Alice Shipley. Something evil this way comes, for sure. Mangan’s debut pays homage to The Talented Mr. Ripley and to the work of Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson.

A vivid setting and a devious, deadly plot, though the first is a bit overdone and the second contains a few head-scratchers, including the evil-lesbian trope. Film rights have already been sold; it will make a good movie.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-268666-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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

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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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