Intelligent and ambitious, but also heavy-handed and alienating.

THE VANISHERS

A dour heroine tracks her psychic attacker in this dark latest from Julavits (The Uses of Enchantment, 2006, etc.).

At New Hampshire’s Institute of Integrated Parapsychology, Julia Severn is selected to record Madame Ackerman’s words as she roams the cosmos. But Madame Ackerman’s “regressions” are actually extended naps, so Julia begins inventing psychic revelations. Shortly after Julia envisions actual information sought by a client of Ackerman’s, who is trying to find controversial filmmaker Dominique Varga, she becomes so ill she has to leave the Institute. A year later, mysterious new acquaintance Colophon Martin tells Julia she is the victim of psychic attacks by Madame Ackerman. Her only solution is to avail herself of the services of his company, vanish.org, which helps people disappear from untenable lives. Colophon offers to help Julia because he’s that former client of Madame Ackerman’s; Julia’s psychic abilities have been suppressed by her ailments, and he needs her to get well to find Varga, who disappeared in 1984. Julia’s willing, because her anxious father has revealed that her mother, an artist who committed suicide when Julia was one month old, knew Varga, who “made your mother believe death could be an artistic act.” The connections only grow more sinister (and far-fetched) after Julia checks in to the Goergen, a refuge in Vienna for vanishers of various sorts. What is the true identity of the fellow resident who claims to be “Hungarian skin care royalty?” Is Madame Ackerman behind the emails Julia keeps getting from “aconcernedfriend”? What happened in Room 13, 152 West 53rd Street, on October 24, 1984? Julia’s ailments recede, and her psychic powers grow, but she still seems clueless as the story lumbers towards an extremely elaborate denouement culminating in a confrontation with Madame Ackerman. A searing final section very nearly redeems all this clutter, as Julia returns to New Hampshire to unmask the real culprit and to make the grimmest sort of settlement with her dead mother.

Intelligent and ambitious, but also heavy-handed and alienating.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-52381-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 26

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot...

THE RULES OF MAGIC

The Owens sisters are back—not in their previous guise as elderly aunties casting spells in Hoffman’s occult romance Practical Magic (1995), but as fledgling witches in the New York City captured in Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids.

In that magical, mystical milieu, Franny and Bridget are joined by a new character: their foxy younger brother, Vincent, whose “unearthly” charm sends grown women in search of love potions. Heading into the summer of 1960, the three Owens siblings are ever more conscious of their family's quirkiness—and not just the incidents of levitation and gift for reading each other's thoughts while traipsing home to their parents' funky Manhattan town house. The instant Franny turns 17, they are all shipped off to spend the summer with their mother's aunt in Massachusetts. Isabelle Owens might enlist them for esoteric projects like making black soap or picking herbs to cure a neighbor's jealousy, but she at least offers respite from their fretful mother's strict rules against going shoeless, bringing home stray birds, wandering into Greenwich Village, or falling in love. In short order, the siblings meet a know-it-all Boston cousin, April, who brings them up to speed on the curse set in motion by their Salem-witch ancestor, Maria Owens. It spells certain death for males who attempt to woo an Owens woman. Naturally this knowledge does not deter the current generation from circumventing the rule—Bridget most passionately, Franny most rationally, and Vincent most recklessly (believing his gender may protect him). In time, the sisters ignore their mother's plea and move to Greenwich Village, setting up an apothecary, while their rock-star brother, who glimpsed his future in Isabelle’s nifty three-way mirror, breaks hearts like there's no tomorrow. No one's more confident or entertaining than Hoffman at putting across characters willing to tempt fate for true love.

Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot twist—delivering everything fans of a much-loved book could hope for in a prequel.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3747-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

more