A captivating postmodern murder story.



A cerebral drifter makes sense out of the madness in his life in this debut novel.

Robert Robillard, a 23-year-old self-styled artist whose mind moves a mile a minute, is considering suicide but decides to just leave Los Angeles instead. He begins a metaphysical journey around the American Southwest, pondering such heady topics as life, death, morality, and existence while experimenting with a few trespasses against the laws of God and humanity. He gets caught stealing and is forced to murder his way out of the situation, only to be filled with intense remorse and fear over the deaths of the two people he’s killed: “I was now a murderer and it would forever weigh and sit and hang over who I was and who I was to be.” Robillard’s ruminations on the nature of freedom and expression—which were previously largely philosophical exercises—take on a new urgency as he seeks to escape punishment for his crimes and settle his affairs before fleeing to Montreal to live under a new identity. To do so, he’ll have to make peace with the person his actions have forced him to become—and escape the vengeance of the father of his victims. Robillard narrates the book in an ellipses-laden, Joycean stream-of-consciousness style that Hunter calls Chaos Riddle Prose: “Shoe to killer in Connecticut … with Wet Fingers Worth of Worthiness … palms to sheiks … forehead feigned the Fool! … Touch do not! … Orion the Ore my Marina the Music! … The Music of the Spheres!” It’s a bit hard to follow, as Robillard leaps from literary reference to pun to onomatopoeic description of something happening right in front of him. Hunter’s obvious debt to various modernists feels more than a bit mannered now that Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a hundred years old. That said, there is something inherently compelling about a book that forces the reader to experience it on its own terms, and this is one such work. Hunter has created a surreally inviting wasteland in which to stage this morality play.

A captivating postmodern murder story.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4783-5381-2

Page Count: 300

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2017

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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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