Fans of crime fiction will delight in this marriage of knowing aestheticism and old-fashioned mayhem.



André Aciman meets Patricia Highsmith in this satisfying exercise in literary crime.

“No mythical city should be judged by its airport.” So we read as 25-year-old Nicholas Brink, an Ohioan by way of New York, lands in Venice in a “Gobi of concrete.” Nick is cut out for finer things, and he has come to Venice to take his part in a con game of his own devising. Bollen (The Destroyers, 2017, etc.) skillfully lets the details out bit by bit: We learn on one page that he has a boyfriend, Clay Guillory, on another that Clay is an Italian speaker who knows Venice well, on still another that Clay is an African American who, Nick hopes, will find the city of Othello less ethnically fraught than a white America that sees Clay “as a blur of black skin.” The crime is delicious, a sale of counterfeit antiques to an American expat who has more money than he knows what to do with. As must happen in stories of this sort, mistakes are made, and Nick, who presents himself as the affable good guy, gets greedy—and, Clay protests, “Getting greedy is what will get us into trouble.” Instead of selling a bunch of old silver and such, Nick wants to sell a whole palazzo that only partly belongs to Clay by virtue of a friendship with a now-deceased bohemian artist—only partly, the rest being tied up in a family squabble of epically Venetian proportions. Cons turn into countercons as a private investigator–cum-strongman turns up, and when that happens, Bollen’s relatively gentle game of cat and mouse takes a bloody turn that’s not entirely unexpected. Clay’s warning to Nick turns out to be exactly right, as Nick sheds any vestigial boyishness in the course of a would-be swindle that goes exactly wrong.

Fans of crime fiction will delight in this marriage of knowing aestheticism and old-fashioned mayhem.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-285388-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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


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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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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