A dark, glittering fable about the terror of desire.

THE LIGHTNESS

Four teenage girls attempt to unlock the secrets of levitation in this unsettling debut from the senior editor of Literary Hub.

Olivia's father left to attend a Buddhist retreat at the Levitation Center but never returned home. When Olivia flees her abusive mother in order to find out what happened to him, she spends the summer attending the center's retreat for teen girls. "They were slick-finish girls, cat-eye girls, hot blood girls," Olivia recalls. "They were girls who reveled. They were girls who liked boys and back seats, who slid things that weren't theirs into their tight pockets." But the crackling energy of three girls in particular catches Olivia's eye: commanding Serena, stoic Janet, and provocative Laurel. Under the direction of Serena, the four young women convince Luke, the center's gardener and a universal object of teenage lust, to teach them the secrets of levitation. In preparation, the girls fast on nettle tea, play dangerous fainting games, and attempt to seduce Luke. The summer wears on, and Serena pushes them each to the brink. At last, Olivia must confront the possibility that Serena's quest for control over their bodies might put them all in danger—or is that what Olivia really wants? Temple's evocative exploration of teenage girlhood, shame, and longing illuminates the double-edged desire for power and belonging. Her sentences are complex and rich, although the ominous mood of the novel occasionally overpowers the emotional payoff of its reveals. "You might as well learn this now: even the tiniest bit of power turns me instantly immoral," Olivia laments early in the novel, though it's difficult to say how much power Olivia ever wields. Still, Temple's narrative strategies of deferral invite us into a complex, psychological study of a young woman haunted by her past—and her capacity to hunger for violence and self-destruction.

A dark, glittering fable about the terror of desire.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-290532-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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