Gruesome and bathed in ebony-black humor, this is a much-deserved conclusion for one of horror’s most imaginative heroines.

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VULTURES

The long, strange journey of the cursed girl Miriam Black finally comes to an end.

Wendig (The Raptor and the Wren, 2018, etc.) has been writing about his punk-rock angel of death for nearly a decade now, and he’s chosen this sixth book to finally tie up the loose ends. Miriam, who’s cursed with the ability to see how and when anyone she touches will die, has been through so much already, and Wendig isn’t letting her go easily. As the book opens, she’s pregnant with the daughter of her now-gone lover, augmented by a new paranormal healing ability, and traveling with her recent paramour, Gabby, all while being chased by the supernatural shape-shifter she calls The Trespasser. She’s recruited by FBI agent David Guerrero, who’s assembled a team with gifts similar to Miriam’s in pursuit of a serial killer code-named “Starfucker” for targeting young actors in Hollywood. That’s the gist of it, but Wendig throws in everything but the kitchen sink here, including the return of several villains and an old ally, the elusive Wren. Come for the medium who thinks he’s Rasputin reincarnated; stay for the series’ new big bad, The Ghost of All-Dead. The story is as propulsive as ever, with Miriam’s new abilities giving Wendig a devious way to torture his much-loved fate-breaker—as always, Miriam is acidly profane, and the story is graphic both sexually and in terms of sheer bloody and visceral violence. It’s certainly not the best entry point for the series—that would be the hard-charging opener, Blackbirds (2015). But readers who have shared the journey of this hard-drinking, hard-living runaway and want to see if she finally gets free of her demonic conundrum will have as much of a blast as ever.

Gruesome and bathed in ebony-black humor, this is a much-deserved conclusion for one of horror’s most imaginative heroines.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4877-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel.

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DEATH IN HER HANDS

A note suggesting a woman has been killed in the woods captures the imagination of an elderly woman, with alarming intensity.

Vesta, the extremely unreliable narrator of Moshfegh’s fourth novel (My Year of Rest and Relaxation, 2018, etc.), is a 72-year-old widow who’s recently purchased a new home, a cabin on a former Girl Scout camp. Walking her dog through the nearby woods, she sees a note lying on the ground which says that a woman named Magda has been killed "and here is her dead body," but there's no body there or any sign of violence. Call the police? Too easy: Instead, Vesta allows herself to be consumed with imagining what Magda might have been like and the circumstances surrounding her murder. Whatever the opposite of Occam’s razor is, Vesta’s detective work is it: After some web searching on how mystery writers do their work, she surmises that Magda was a Belarussian teen sent to the United States to work at a fast-food restaurant, staying in the basement of a woman whose son, Blake, committed the murder. Moshfegh on occasion plays up the comedy of Vesta’s upside-down thinking: “A good detective presumes more than she interrogates.” But Vesta slowly reveals herself as what we might now call a Moshfegh-ian lead: a woman driven to isolation and feeling disassociated from herself, looking for ways to cover up for a brokenness she's loath to confront. Over the course of the novel, Vesta’s projections about Magda's identity become increasingly potent and heartbreaking symbols of wounds from the narrator's childhood and marriage. The judgmental voice of her late husband, Walter, keeps rattling in her head, and she defiantly insists that “I didn’t want Walter in my mindspace anymore. I wanted to know things on my own.” You simultaneously worry about Vesta and root for her, and Moshfegh’s handling of her story is at once troubling and moving.

An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel. (This book has been postponed; we'll update the publication date when it's available.)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7935-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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