SMALL MERCIES

This taut, gripping mystery is also a novel of soul-searching, for the author and reader alike.

Racial tensions provide the powder keg for this explosive mystery.

A master of literary crime fiction, Lehane revisits the Boston of almost a half-century ago, when, in 1974, court-ordered school busing incites protest throughout the White neighborhoods of a very segregated city. As a working-class White woman trying to keep one step ahead of the bill collector, Mary Pat Fennessy has a close but tense relationship with her teenage daughter, Jules, who seems to be keeping secrets from her mother. One night Jules doesn’t come home, and Mary Pat is frantic. The next day at Meadow Lane Manor, the old folks’ home where she works as an aide, she learns that the son of Dreamy Williamson, one of her few Black co-workers, died in a mysterious subway incident that night. Mary Pat doesn’t know Dreamy well but likes her well enough. It seems that both of them have lost children now, but they respond differently, experience different levels of support from their communities, and come to learn that these seemingly separate losses—a death and a disappearance—have a connection that neither could have anticipated. The novel focuses on Mary Pat, illuminates her from within as a loving mother and basically a decent person who nonetheless shares the tribal prejudices of her Irish neighborhood toward people whom they feel are encroaching on their turf. It’s a hot summer, tensions are escalating, and threats of violence are at fever pitch. As Mary Pat keeps trying to find out what happened to Jules and why—wherever the truth may lead her—she discovers how much she has to learn about her daughter, the neighborhood, and the crime outfit whose power and authority have long gone unchallenged. She risks everything to discover the truth.

This taut, gripping mystery is also a novel of soul-searching, for the author and reader alike.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780062129482

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE FURY

More style than substance.

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Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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