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THE SHADES

A thoroughly modern novel with a Gothic feel; a fully realized vision.

A couple begins to unravel after the sudden death of their 16-year-old daughter in Citkowitz’s (Ether, 2010) haunting portrait of unsparing grief.

In the year since Rachel was killed in a car accident alongside her secret boyfriend, her parents have retreated into separate worlds. Catherine, a high-powered gallerist, a tastemaker, has taken up residence at their aged country house in Kent, where once they’d planned to retire—a thought now inconceivable. Michael remains at the family home in London; there has, he reflects, always been “a remoteness that created a space between them that he never understood,” though the gulf is wider now, the initial wave of grief having worn off. Meanwhile, their teenage son, Rowan, sweet and stoic, has fled to boarding school, having made the arrangements for his escape himself. And so Catherine is alone when a mysterious young woman arrives at the house, claiming to have lived there as a child. She is reinvigorated by the girl, striking up what she believes to be the beginnings of a friendship. But the relationship soon darkens; the girl, Catherine learns, may not be who she seems. Though the novel is short, with nothing extra, it seems to encompass lifetimes: Time and space expand and contract, the present blurring seamlessly—unsettlingly—with the past. We learn about Catherine’s parents, her father’s art, her mother’s suicide; her courtship with Michael; the day of Rachel’s death. But we also see the present: the marriage and the house; Rowan becoming increasingly obsessed with climate change at school. The mystery of the girl and the novel’s murky ending are arguably the least interesting elements of the book, which is driven less by the naked plot than by the exquisite strength of Citkowitz’s writing—spare, arresting, and emotionally precise.

A thoroughly modern novel with a Gothic feel; a fully realized vision.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-25412-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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ABSOLUTE POWER

The mother of all presidential cover-ups is the centerpiece gimmick in this far-fetched thriller from first-novelist Baldacci, a Washington-based attorney. In the dead of night, while burgling an exurban Virginia mansion, career criminal Luther Whitney is forced to conceal himself in a walk-in closet when Christine Sullivan, the lady of the house, arrives in the bedroom he's ransacking with none other than Alan Richmond, President of the US. Through the one-way mirror, Luther watches the drunken couple engage in a bout of rough sex that gets out of hand, ending only when two Secret Service men respond to the Chief Executive's cries of distress and gun down the letter-opener-wielding Christy. Gloria Russell, Richmond's vaultingly ambitious chief of staff, orders the scene rigged to look like a break-in and departs with the still befuddled President, leaving Christy's corpse to be discovered at another time. Luther makes tracks as well, though not before being spotted on the run by agents from the bodyguard detail. Aware that he's shortened his life expectancy, Luther retains trusted friend Jack Graham, a former public defender, but doesn't tell him the whole story. When Luther's slain before he can be arraigned for Christy's murder, Jack concludes he's the designated fall guy in a major scandal. Meanwhile, little Gloria (together with two Secret Service shooters) hopes to erase all tracks that might lead to the White House. But the late Luther seems to have outsmarted her in advance with recurrent demands for hush money. The body count rises as Gloria's attack dogs and Jack search for the evidence cunning Luther's left to incriminate not only a venal Alan Richmond but his homicidal deputies. The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper climax provides an unsurprising answer to the question of whether a US president can get away with murder. For all its arresting premise, an overblown and tedious tale of capital sins. (Film rights to Castle Rock; Book-of-the-Month selection)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51996-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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