A fine technological thriller that only gets better as it goes along.

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DEATH NEVER SLEEPS

In Simon’s debut thriller, a corporate CEO takes over a gambling and loan-sharking operation from his murdered brother.

Michael Nicholas, CEO of Gibraltar Financial, has done his best to steer clear of his brother Alex’s illegal business and shady cohorts. But when his brother is gunned down, his widow, Donna, needs Michael’s expertise to help collect his loans, pay a $700,000 debt to a bettor, and find another few million dollars that Alex has stashed. It’s no walk in the park: The bettor, a thug appropriately named Sharkey, demands his payment while boasting about how he could kill Michael in a public place. However, Michael might be able to find some answers by using technology that Alex left behind: an artificial intelligence, patterned after his brother’s image and personality, that’s been contacting Michael with cryptic messages. Soon Michael becomes obsessed with handling Alex’s operations and begins shirking his CEO duties, but it turns out that the AI can assist with the business. Simon’s novel has elements of a mystery, as there are other murders, a kidnapping and threats against Michael and his wife, Samantha. However, Michael is more a financial manager than an investigator, and the mystery unravels mostly on its own. Still, even when Michael isn’t actively looking for clues, the story gleefully offers an array of suspects: Alex had two ex-wives and a hairdresser lover, Jennifer—who was also having sex with a French movie star. Simon keeps the plot’s technological aspects simple, never explaining exactly how the AI works. At times, Simon does this cheekily, as when Jennifer says that Alex upgraded a laptop by having “these really smart people customize it or something.” The story also takes nerve-wracking turns; during a terrifying home invasion at Michael and Samantha’s house, for example, a murderer tells them point-blank: “I’m going to kill you.” Some mysteries remain unresolved at the end—including at least one murder—but a planned sequel should placate frustrated readers.

A fine technological thriller that only gets better as it goes along. 

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0991256419

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon/Zef

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

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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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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