A conventional but sometimes entertaining noir whodunit.

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INSIDE SAM LERNER

In Banta’s (The Fly Strip, 2016) latest novel, a retired, 40-something Los Angeles police detective returns to his hometown of New Orleans only to become embroiled in a case of a dead sex worker.

Sam Lerner is overwhelmed with guilt and bad memories after the death of his wife, Kira, in a car accident. After failing to find solace in drink, he moves from LA to the Big Easy with his golden retriever, Beatrice. His first stop is Maire’s Gentlemen’s Club, which he first visited years ago, as a teenager. There, he rekindles his friendship with proprietor Maire Girod, and he also runs into his old friend police captain Leon Duval (who later seems to dog his every step). At Maire’s, he also becomes acquainted with a call girl in her early 20s, Madsen Cassaise, and their relationship provides him with much-needed peace of mind. Within days, however, Madsen goes missing and is later found drowned. Sam finds himself drawn into the case, even though he has no badge or local authority, and he soon learns of the demise of another young woman. Are the two deaths related? Lerner’s investigation takes him throughout New Orleans and its environs, delving into jazz clubs, voodoo practices, and more. The story draws on the noir tradition, with its antihero detective and a seductive woman—in this case, Maire—in danger. Unfortunately, its plot is fairly conventional, with few narrative shocks. The author tells the story predominately through Sam’s eyes, but he occasionally shifts the perspective to other characters to try to give the tale additional emotional and psychological weight. However, the effect is distracting and only serves to undermine the twists and turns. Despite the lack of surprises, though, the novel is enjoyable. Sam succeeds as an antihero, as his sense of morality drives him to tackle the case. He has his faults, but readers will root for him to find peace with the world. The depiction of New Orleans, though somewhat cursory, does go beyond infamous ?Bourbon Street, presenting a slightly more nuanced vision of the city and region than usual.

A conventional but sometimes entertaining noir whodunit.

Pub Date: June 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-982922-54-2

Page Count: 207

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2018

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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