THE GIANT'S HOUSE

McCracken's eccentric debut tale of a prim librarian's secret passion for the town giant presents an intriguing premise—one that is finally muted, unfortunately, by the excessively restrained tone of the narrator. Peggy Court, the newly appointed librarian to a small Cape Cod town in the 1950s, first meets James Carlson Sweatt when, as a six feet two inches tall 11-year-old, he is part of a school field trip to her circulation desk. A bright, curious boy, James immediately wins Peggy's icy heart, and they build a relationship based on a mutual interest—the pursuit of knowledge. As he grows older (and taller by the year—James suffers from a form of giantism in which the person never stops growing), and after the suicide of his mother, the two forge a rather curious bond. Lonely, bitter Peggy, ostensibly part caretaker, part mother figure, is in reality the one in need: Charismatic James, it seems, has plenty of friends and interests and, in fact, saves Peggy from her misanthropic self. Though James lives happily with his aunt and uncle, Peggy becomes obsessed during their ten-year relationship with James's needs, having a proportionate house and furniture built for him, and a car modified for his size. She sees to his medical problems, accompanies him on promotional tours, and chaperons his one-week stint as a headliner for the circus. Though their ``romance'' is the novel's concern, Peggy, narrating in flashbacks, is overly protective of her memories and vague as to the parameters of her love, thereby excluding the reader from a deeper engagement. Finally, after James's inevitably young death, the story takes a bizarre turn when Peggy has a one-night stand with James's grieving father, then claims that the child from that union was fathered by James. A promising idea, ultimately disappointing in execution: McCracken's first novel lacks the one aspect vital to its success- -concern for the lovers. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection)

Pub Date: July 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-31433-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1996

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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