Intense and enigmatic, tense and tender, this novel offers no easy answers—its deeper meanings may mystify—but it grabs you...

THE BEAUTIFUL BUREAUCRAT

In a novel that's part love story, part urban thriller, Phillips (And Yet They Were Happy, 2011, etc.) captures the way an isolating job and an indifferent city can stealthily steal our lives and erode our souls—and the protective, nourishing power of love.

A nameless, genderless, nearly faceless boss with rank breath; a tiny office in a vast windowless building, its “pinkish ill-colored” walls fluorescently lit, marked with “scratches, smears, shadowy fingerprints, the echoes of hands” of bureaucrats past, and impervious to efforts at beautification; the incessant, maddening drone of typing; the red-eyed co-workers of uncertain trustworthiness; the computer database into which numbers on pages in piles of files must be entered and double-checked and processed just so—these are the things Josephine Anne Newbury encounters in the administrative job she accepts, asking few questions and getting fewer answers, for a mysterious organization. Having up and moved to the city from the “hinterland” looking for new opportunities, Josephine and her beloved husband, Joseph, endure mindless work following a long period of unemployment and the added alienation of living in unwelcoming apartments, surrounded by other people’s belongings. They find solace, joy, and vitality in each other, in the linguistic playfulness that has become their own language, in the warm glow of simple meals enjoyed together by candlelight, and in their shared dream of starting a family. But the city to which they have moved “in hope of hope” sweeps them into its sinister clutches and brings them face to face with pressing existential questions to which the answers may be as inevitable and unpleasant as they are unclear. Phillips takes situations and sentiments that will be all too familiar to many readers—a soul-crushingly dull job that callously steals our youth and beauty, the desperate yearning to be free of it, the restoring power of love and food and intimacy and of shared language and laughter—and uses them to explore bigger universal themes of life and death and the choices and compromises they demand.

Intense and enigmatic, tense and tender, this novel offers no easy answers—its deeper meanings may mystify—but it grabs you up, propels you along, and leaves you gasping, grasping, and ready to read it again.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-376-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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It’s hard to imagine a single white-collar wage slave who won’t thrill to this latest Robin Hood fantasy of righteous...

WORTH DYING FOR

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 15

Whatever business Jack Reacher has in Virginia will have to wait till the world’s most distractible soldier of fortune cleans up the mess he’s stumbled into amid the cornfields of the Midwest.

After hitchhiking as far as Nebraska, Reacher minds his own business precisely long enough for the sozzled doctor sharing a hotel bar with him to get a call from a patient with a nosebleed. Forget about ignoring her, Reacher tells the startled medico. If she’s had nosebleeds recently, she may well be taking aspirin that’s thinned her blood and made it likely that she’ll keep on bleeding. Better to have Reacher drive him to Eleanor Duncan’s house so that he can see whether her husband’s been beating her. In the end, Eleanor’s nosebleed turns out to be inconsequential—it’s not even Seth Duncan who’s beaten her this time—but his perverse, aggressive, utterly characteristic stint as the good Samaritan pulls Reacher into the orbit of Seth’s father Jacob and Seth’s uncles Jasper and Jonas. Because they’re a tight-knit family, they don’t plan to take Reacher’s interference lying down. And because they’re engaged in criminal enterprise, their clients, already putting pressure on them for a mysteriously delayed delivery coming down from Canada, plan to go after this interloper themselves. In a flash, the ex-Army cop is the subject of a manhunt by the Duncans’ thugs, their Italian client’s thugs, the Italian’s Lebanese client’s thugs and the Lebanese’s Iranian clients’ thugs. With so many strong-arm types flooding the prairie, there are plenty of opportunities for violence, treachery and double-crossing—think of a Nebraska remake of A Fistful of Dollars with an international cast—and Child (61 Hours, 2010, etc.) doesn’t miss a single one. By the time he’s finally shaken the dust from his feet, Reacher will have plumbed the depths of a monstrous unsolved crime, cleaned up the county and killed a lot of mostly nameless guys who really deserved it.

It’s hard to imagine a single white-collar wage slave who won’t thrill to this latest Robin Hood fantasy of righteous vengeance.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-34431-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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