An enchanting cabinet of curiosities and wonders.

A REGISTRY OF MY PASSAGE UPON THE EARTH

Nine tales of human endurance, accomplishment, and epiphany told with style and brio.

Mason is one of our best historical novelists, creating panoramas of rich detail, propulsive plot, and artful character development in novels such as The Piano Tuner (2002) and The Winter Soldier (2018). In his first story collection, he shows how quickly and completely he can immerse readers in a foreign place and time. “Death of the Pugilist, or The Famous Battle of Jacob Burke & Blindman McGraw” is—if you’ll forgive the wordplay—a knockout punch: 17 short, numbered rounds recounting the life of a Bristol stevedore whose fate awaits him in the ring of an 1824 boxing match so vividly described you can almost taste the blood. (Yes, the title is a spoiler.) “The Ecstasy of Alfred Russel Wallace” follows an English “bug collector” and “species man” who is “entranced by life’s variety” to go to the Malay Archipelago, where, burning with fever, he concocts a theory of the natural world: “Everywhere he looked he saw the struggle for existence. He could not happen upon an insect without wondering how every trait had saved it from nature’s forge.” Did we mention that this real-life, little-remembered figure is also a correspondent of the great and celebrated Charles Darwin, whose return letters mysteriously cease once the theory has been shared? In “The Line Agent Pascal,” the titular Frenchman maintains a solitary railway station deep in the Amazon rainforest, his only human connection coming, Twitter-like, with other agents along the telegraph line. “However distant his colleagues were, he’d come to understand them intimately over the years, could describe each man, each station, with details he had never seen,” Mason writes. A pair of stories with female protagonists—one an 18th-century hot air balloonist—offer relief from an overwhelmingly male cast.

An enchanting cabinet of curiosities and wonders.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-47763-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more