Momplaisir’s debut introduces her as an author to watch.

READ REVIEW

MY MOTHER'S HOUSE

A shockingly original exploration of class, race, and systemic violence.

“The two-story (three, if you counted the basement), one-family (two, again, if the basement was included) House had had enough. Fed up with the burden of Its owner’s absurd hoarding, inexcusable slovenliness, and abuse of power, It spontaneously combusted everywhere a power source sprouted unkempt.” These lines from the opening paragraph of Momplaisir's debut give the reader a sense of the shocks to come in this strange, disturbing novel. The home that’s on fire is not only conscious and willful; it’s also a central character in the narrative. Those parenthetical, half-hidden references to the basement give us the first hint of the gruesome revelations to come. This house, tainted by the human evil it contains, is reminiscent of the opening line of Toni Morrison’s Beloved: “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children.” And, like Morrison, Momplaisir uses the tropes of fantasy to try to assert truths that ordinary language and realistic imagery cannot communicate. Morrison compelled readers to confront American slavery and its aftermath. Momplaisir addresses both the legacy of colonialism in Haiti and the immigrant experience in the United States. The man who drives the House to self-immolate is Lucien, a ne’er-do-well who doesn’t live up to the promise his light skin and expensive education suggest. He is obsessed with Marie-Ange, who, as a general’s daughter, is out of reach—until her father runs afoul of President Duvalier. Lucien expects a bright future for his wife and their daughters when they eventually move to New York, but the success he wants still eludes him in a community that only grudgingly makes room for an influx of Haitians resettling in Queens. Lucien satisfies himself by indulging his darkest needs. Momplaisir’s unflinching depiction of the horrors white supremacy has wrought is powerful. But the narrative is presented almost entirely in expository mode; the whole novel feels like the backstory to a story that never entirely takes off. And, while the characters function as symbols, they never quite emerge as real. And that includes the House.

Momplaisir’s debut introduces her as an author to watch.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65716-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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