A promising, if flawed, debut for fans of action and intrigue.

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VAULTS OF POWER

Echer's debut novel is a thriller about a mysterious manuscript and its global, historical reach.

Fans of summer thriller blockbusters should find plenty to like here. The main protagonist, Robyn Gabriel, is clearly established from the outset as a strong, capable and sexually liberated character. She’s a treasure hunter, has a strong relationship with a childhood friend and current business partner and, though estranged from her family, she is willing to drop everything to go to her sister’s aid when she’s in trouble. One of the main antagonists, James McIntyre, is equally well drawn; Echer provides compelling details such as how the powerful VP at the Fed who is trying to acquire a manuscript whose secrets could topple nations also has to deal with a teenage daughter acting out. The story is complicated and can seem sluggish for the first 100 pages as Echer sets all the pieces in motion. But when things are actually moving, the author has a great feel for action and pacing and features some thrilling sequences in compelling locations from European crypts to a library at Yale. But Echer is perhaps too ambitious, and the reader’s threshold for coincidence—finding a caterpillar that only lives during certain seasons on a certain island, McIntyre’s daughter’s college connections—may be tested. Some elements of the final resolution seem to come together too neatly, and one character that pops up at the beginning of the story, disappears and then isn’t heard from until the last couple of pages. Stylistically, Echer often strives for the language of the hardboiled detective genre. It often works, but there are stretches where pronouns are dropped to keep the action flowing where the style becomes distracting. But Echer has a great eye for detail; it’s easy to visualize her characters and their settings, to see the action unfolding. And Echer is adept at choreographing action scenes. She clearly describes what the façade of a building looks like, works that into how a character approaches that building and even describes the smells that greet her characters once they are inside.

A promising, if flawed, debut for fans of action and intrigue.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0984817108

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Chicoine Editions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2012

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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