A spirited beginning to a new mystery series that’s haunted with humor.



From the Shady Hooiser Detective Agency series , Vol. 1

Senior sleuths search for ghosts, gold, and a missing dachshund in Indiana.

Sixty-seven-year-old Ruby Jane “RJ” Waskom narrates this debut mystery. RJ and her best friend, 71-year-old Veenie Goens, work as detectives-in-training with “the best—okay the only—PI agency in Knobby Waters.” The women share a house and a car (a turquoise 1960 Chevy Impala), and they like to keep an emergency pie on hand. Their neighbor Dode Schneider, who “wasn’t right in the head even before that snowplow hit him,” hires them to investigate the apparitions he claims he’s seen by the apple orchard at the Wyatt mansion, abandoned nearly 100 years ago by Jedidiah Wyatt, one of the town’s founding fathers. Wyatt operated the local bank, but when it failed in 1919, in part because a flood washed away the crops that were the residents’ source of income, he rowed out of soggy Knobby Waters with all the gold and other valuables he stole from the institution’s vault. About the only thing left in the safe was a note that read “Adios, folks.” Intrigued by the tale of the stolen gold and committed to the ghost hunt, the gumshoes also answer an ad about a missing dachshund. Finding Puddles, a much-loved pudgy “wiener dog,” would bring in a welcome reward. Plenty of silliness mixes with multiple mysteries in Pettles’ very funny series opener. Wacky but, for the most part, charming characters populate Knobby Waters. Among the townspeople are junior police officer Devon Hattabaugh, whose mutton-chop sideburns “bushed out like squirrel tails,” and Ma and Peepaw Horton, who operate an always-open pie pantry in their tool shed. Unlike most female detectives in mystery series, crusty RJ and Veenie lack any kind of civility and clearly get joy out of what others would find frightening. When agreeing to take on the paranormal assignment, RJ reckons that she and Veenie have been outwitting living people for quite some time, and “how much smarter could the dead be?” Descriptions and dialogue are clever, amusing, and often quotable. Perhaps the only unfortunate thing about the book is its uninspired title. The author, born in a small Indiana town, writes with knowledge and affection about a quirky cast of Hoosiers.

A spirited beginning to a new mystery series that’s haunted with humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9815678-2-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hot Pants Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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