A stylish novel from a fine comedic storyteller who hopefully has more than one book in him.

READ REVIEW

The Antichrist of Kokomo County

Skinner’s debut novel is a clever, funny chronicle of an apocalypse narrowly averted and of greatness diverted.

Franklin Bartholomew Horvath is a loser from a long line of losers. But at the outset of this story, he proclaims that his time as an inconsequential cog is about to come to an end and that he may be the savior of mankind. He’s about to enter the office of the former United Church of Satan in Berry, Indiana (they now call themselves the Church of the Epistemological Emendation to avoid harassment from the locals). He has a 9 mm handgun hidden in his pants and his 12-year-old son, Michael, nicknamed “Sparky,” in tow. Skinner then tells the story of what led Frankie to this desperate point. When Frankie was 12 years old, his father had an epiphany that there would be a “Great Horvath,” an exceptional person, in the family. Young Frankie is crushed to learn, though, that it won’t be him—but it could be his son. When Frankie finally has a kid, the local Rev. Phipps declares little Sparky the Antichrist. Frankie doesn’t believe it, but his wife buys it immediately. So he and his wife try to save the world by raising an unremarkable child, addling him with sugar and television and doing everything they can to keep him from excelling. (It’s also perfect revenge against Frankie’s father, who was counting on Sparky to be the Great Horvath.) This eventually leads to a showdown with the Satanists, which Frankie believes could decide the fate of humanity. Overall, this is a fantastically inventive story with plenty of fun twists that’s told with great humor. In Frankie, Skinner has created his own version of Ignatius J. Reilly from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980); Frankie is a bit more self-aware than Toole’s protagonist, but he’s no less deluded. The structure of the novel does make it seem like a bit of a shaggy dog story at times, and the author holds back a few details for a setup in a way that seems like cheating. However, the payoff is worth it.

A stylish novel from a fine comedic storyteller who hopefully has more than one book in him.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more