A defiantly obscure tale, verging on the surreal, with an equally nebulous target audience.

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HUMMINGBIRD

Crutchley (Bad Days in Broadacre, 2016, etc.) offers a sprawling novel of time distortions and life temptations.

Alfred and Victor, twin soldiers in World War I, are cast adrift in the English Channel and briefly encounter a Napoleonic French general and his servant rowing a boat. Oliver Armstrong, an English businessman in the present day, is on the cross-channel ferry when he witnesses a shipwreck that no-one else on the ferry sees. Stanley Sedgewick, a retired English fireman, bumps into the aforementioned Frenchmen (quite literally) while swimming the channel. Walter Little, a high-level diplomat, finds himself typing the text of a historical document that he has no previous knowledge of, while traveling by train through the Channel Tunnel. It turns out that time is being warped, and Alice Blumen, an American reporter, attempts to reconcile these various incidents. During her investigations, she comes into contact with other affected people, including Calvin Cross, an English retiree with wanderlust; and Darlene, a French medium. Somehow, she knows that everything is related, and in some way, it will all culminate at England’s Battley Airport. Some aspects of Crutchley’s prose are distracting, such as the occasional overly enthusiastic use of adverbs and the lack of commas at the end of direct speech: “ ‘The meeting was nothing’ arrogantly replied [airport manager] Mildrew angrily.” Crutchley presents a plethora of characters with rambling histories that add to their uniqueness but often offer no clear bearing on the plot. Alone, none of these people demands the reader’s attention; en masse, they’re like a lashed-together raft that makes its way downstream, gathering detritus and momentum in roughly equal measure. The result may frustrate readers who are accustomed to more clear-cut and direct plots. However, this isn’t a novel that need be approached literally; rather, it can be taken as a blank-page analogy of life and fate. Readers with a bent for abstract expressionism may well see this random gathering of characters—and the aimless inevitability of the book’s pilgrimage—and find something of their own lives within.

A defiantly obscure tale, verging on the surreal, with an equally nebulous target audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 382

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

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

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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

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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

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