Asher has a great voice for crime fiction; hopefully he’ll use it frequently.

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DAMAGE DAY, FLA

Asher (Olivia Jane Doe, 2013) proves he has what it takes to make an entertaining book about noble lowlifes and con games.

Kip hadn’t seen his brother Jack in 10 years before showing up at his bar in Naples, Florida, hoping to land a job. A decade before, Jack left Ohio and his family behind in a flurry of kiss-offs and bad blood; he became somewhat of a legend for opening up his own bar, so much so that restless younger brother Kip reaches out to him for a job. When Kip meets Jack and his bodyguard, Carter, known as the “Cowboy,” it’s clear that Jack is into some shady dealings. The Riot Bar is off the beaten path but frequented by the worst element in town, all of whom seem to know Jack. Kip wants that for himself, and Jack reluctantly agrees to take him under his wing. Complications crop up immediately, as it seems Jack has some debts and personal drama, chiefly with a fresh-in-town 18-year-old firecracker of a woman nicknamed Davie. She’s involved with Jack, who doesn’t take well to fidelity. Things quickly go south. Kip develops a bit of a crush on cunning and inscrutable Davie, and he agrees to her scheme to win over his brother via a plan that includes shaking down a connected nightclub owner. The pace picks up on a wonderfully amusing ride with pitch-perfect dialogue and twists that come up too quickly to predict. Asher’s chief talent is his ear for dialogue. Conversations are snappy and have the smart-alecky feel of solid crime noir. Personalities emerge through dialogue as well as action, and Asher’s narrative wastes little time dwelling on anyone’s inner monologue save Kip’s. The narrative is stylized and sarcastic—perhaps a drawback for some readers, but it fits the tone of the book perfectly. For instance, after a character has been beaten to a bloody mess, he holds a gun to the people who administered the blows: “He pointed the gun, but did so with staggering laziness. But the gun was pointed. However lackluster it was didn’t seem to matter. A gun tends to do that.”

Asher has a great voice for crime fiction; hopefully he’ll use it frequently.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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