A compelling psychological tale that makes a well-worn formula feel new.

THE IDENTICAL OPPOSITE

In Savage’s thriller, a troubled woman’s grip on reality loosens after her former lover moves into the neighborhood—with fatal consequences.

Paula Hickman has led a difficult life, despite the fact she’s the heiress to a fortune. A series of traumas, including the deaths of her mother and sister in a car accident, her father’s suicide, and the apparent murder of her college roommate, have all taken a psychological toll. She’s now married to Alan, an academic at the University of California, Los Angeles, and she spends her days quietly battling suicidal depression. However, after her old flame, Anthony Mills, moves in across the street, her life becomes altogether more complicated. Specifically, she thinks that she and Anthony’s wife, Hannah, look identical in every detail—but no one else sees the resemblance. Paula agrees to visit therapist Claire Horst who, despite her benevolent approach to her patient’s mental frailty, isn’t at all what she seems. When Paula is arrested for a murder that she doesn’t remember committing, she begins to question her sanity; she had the motive and the means to commit the crime, and she has no idea what she was doing when it took place. With the aid of an acerbic lawyer and the executor of her father’s estate, she sets about clearing her name. Over the course of this book, Savage, who previously wrote The Last Getaway (2019), offers a brisk read that leans more toward dialogue than descriptive prose. Indeed, the author keeps the narrative padding to a minimum, overall, mirroring the lean, noir classics that clearly inspired him. What’s most impressive about the novel, though, is its sensitivity toward mental health. The basic plot, in which an amnesiac protagonist can’t remember whether he or she committed murder, is hardly a new one; see Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 film Spellbound, for example. However, Savage’s deft portrayal of a descent into delusion is convincing.

A compelling psychological tale that makes a well-worn formula feel new.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2020

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A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

A tragedy has sent a young artist into seclusion. A potential apocalypse may be enough to bring her back.

For the past two years, 10 months, and 18 days, Katie’s lived in darkness, on retreat from her former life as a rising artist after a personal tragedy eclipsed any happiness she believed possible. Jacob’s Ladder, a remote island named by a former resident for its potential as a stairway to heaven, offers Katie the chance to hide from the rest of the world, merely existing, not healing. She lives each day trying to fulfill what she’s called “the Promise” to those in the life she once knew, though a promise of what is not clear. The closest neighboring islands, Oak Haven and Ringrock, are equally cloistered. Though Katie’s realtor has suggested that Ringrock is some sort of Environmental Protection Agency research station, Katie’s cynicism makes her suspect something more nefarious. The protagonist's remote world and the author’s moody writing are disrupted one night by the startling appearance of drones and the suspicious behavior of a fox Katie’s dubbed Michael J. The wary canine serves as a harbinger of potential danger, and Katie responds by arming herself to the hilt when unexpected guests descend on Jacob’s Ladder. While the true purpose of these visitors is unclear, Katie senses that the greater world is at the precipice of permanent collapse and that she may be the only one who can prevent the impending apocalypse.

A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-6625-0044-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

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FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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