Forget Canadian “niceness”; Strube’s angry, hard-boiled characters confront the same ugly problems found below the 48th...

MISCONDUCT OF THE HEART

In this novel of one woman’s daily travails, Strube (On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light, 2016, etc.) offers a Canadian perspective on a range of contemporary issues, from immigration to PTSD to corporate greed to rape.

“Inactive alcoholic” Stevie is kitchen manager at a Toronto chain restaurant where she fights daily to maintain quality despite increasing corporate demands that her location cut corners. Chappy’s is a richly drawn, darkly comic world filled with the clashing cultures of a mostly immigrant staff, an incompetent boss whose ego Stevie adroitly manipulates, and frequent equipment problems. But the chaos also yields camaraderie, and Stevie feels more relaxed at work than in her own apartment, which she shares with her 23-year-old son, Pierce. He has returned from Afghanistan psychologically damaged, but their relationship has always been troubled. Pierce remembers a childhood in which Stevie mostly avoided her parental responsibilities and sometimes physically mistreated him. All true, Stevie acknowledges, but she has never told him the darker truth: Pierce was the product of a gang rape when Stevie was a young teen, a memory she spent her remaining adolescence and early adulthood escaping in self-destructive behaviors involving alcohol and sex. Even now, anxiously fretting over Pierce’s fragile state, she cannot admit feeling maternal love. A prickly, self-aware narrator, Stevie is a woman who, despite being liked by others, eschews emotional involvement. Then two people enter Stevie’s life: Gyorgi, a busboy from Eastern Europe around Pierce’s age who has always known he was the product of rape yet maintains a loving relationship with his Roma mother; and 4-year-old Trudy, whose drugged-out mother abandons her at Stevie’s parents’ doorstep with a note implying Pierce is her father. There may be more melodrama than necessary, but even as intimacy and affection slip into Stevie’s life, the gritty narration holds sentimentality at bay.

Forget Canadian “niceness”; Strube’s angry, hard-boiled characters confront the same ugly problems found below the 48th parallel.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77041-494-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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