A Hollywood fantasy that’s all about hurt until the very end, which is so much worse.

THE INVENTION OF SOUND

The modern architect of transgressive fiction returns with the tale of a sonic artist looking for the perfect scream.

Palahniuk dives deep into Hollywood noir with a grotesque and outrageous stand-alone that marries the sexual deviance of Snuff (2008) with the late-stage sadism of Bret Easton Ellis. Reminding us from the beginning, “Keep Telling Yourself It’s Only a Movie,” Palahniuk thrusts us into the demented world of one Mitzi Ives, a pill-popping, masochistic, borderline psychotic woman whose specialty in her profession as a freelance Foley artist is capturing the screams of people in the worst agony of their lives. Her narrative runs parallel to that of Gates Foster, an investigator who specializes in tracking down pedophiles. Also in the mix is fading movie star Blush Gentry, whose autobiography, Oscarpocalypse Now, interrupts the torture scenes from time to time, as well as Schlo, the inevitably creepy movie producer. The figure that ties all these deviants together is Dr. Adamah, nominally the physician for Mitzi but, at the book’s core, its real villain. You have to give Palahniuk credit, because there’s just nobody like him when it comes to skeeving out readers, but as in many of his nihilist fancies, there’s nobody to root for here. Gates is a bit useless in the detective department, and Mitzi quite literally disses her boyfriend, Jimmy, because he “only managed to knock out one of her front teeth.” Palahniuk is an acquired taste, and fans will appreciate the story that scrapes like fingernails on a chalkboard and the familiar post-capitalism end-of-the-world vibe, but it might be a little too close for comfort for less amenable readers.

A Hollywood fantasy that’s all about hurt until the very end, which is so much worse.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1800-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

A TIME FOR MERCY

A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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