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A sharp, gripping story of a bleak future.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

In Berger’s dystopian tale, an accountant searches for a man who’s somehow disappeared in a strictly monitored society.

In this futuristic world, the System aids citizens with nearly every aspect of life, from finding compatible dating prospects to getting to work each morning. Jack, just a typical accountant at a bookkeeping company in New Boston, has a business meeting with Megumi, general counsel at UVblZCofKX Corp., a company headquartered in Asia; its North American subsidiary is one of Jack’s clients. Unexpectedly, Megumi asks him to help locate missing financial officer Stanton Lime. Sure enough, Jack’s ping for Lime gets no response whatsoever, which is practically inconceivable. Consequently, he initiates an investigation of sorts to find the missing man. Though there’s little information in Lime’s workstream to indicate his whereabouts, Jack makes headway when he talks to two of the last people who saw him before he vanished. Once he uncovers “subversive” materials among Lime’s belongings, Jack, in little time, begins to question the System itself. He learns, for one, that the System’s most recent update includes a recorded historical fact that’s been slightly altered. Jack teams up with Megumi and others and tries to unearth whatever else the System may be hiding. Berger’s absorbing story skewers reliance on social media. What makes the System so unsettling is that it merely sends “prompts”; citizens can ignore these prompts but often abide by them regardless. Lighter moments help alleviate the overall somber tone. For example, after Jack’s gender-fluid pal, Jesse, suggests Jack is a detective, the accountant subsequently researches Sherlock Holmes for reference. As the narrative progresses, the mystery slowly unravels, though the biggest surprise is saved for the final act. Berger’s prose is crisp, although the narrative can be vague since Jack gets few answers until the end.

A sharp, gripping story of a bleak future.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

A one-eyed boy becomes a monster’s prey in this chilling tale of missing children.

Thirteen-year-old Missouri boy Joseph “Patch” Macauley was born with one eye, so he wears an eye patch and imagines himself a pirate. In 1975, he sees a masked man assaulting a girl in the woods. He attacks the man and saves her, but the predator kidnaps him instead. Patch eventually wakes in total darkness in a cellar where a different girl secretly visits him, heard but always unseen. He learns that her name is Grace and that there have been other girls down there before. Grace paints vivid word pictures of the places she’s seen and of stories by authors like Steinbeck. “Pray and stay alive,” she whispers to Patch. Eventually he escapes, but she is nowhere to be found. Searching for Grace is the underlying thread in a complicated quest that takes unexpected turns over the years and might well bring heartbreak. Meanwhile, the bodies of three girls turn up locally, and their parents grieve. Is the town doctor responsible for their deaths? A local school photographer? Both? Patch paints an image of Grace based only on what he’d heard from her in the cellar; then come more paintings and displays in an art gallery—an implausible achievement for an untrained artist. Meanwhile, Grace may be anywhere, and he must find her whether alive or dead. By now an adult, he “pinball[s]” from state to state, meeting with “a dozen families looking for a dozen lost girls.” To sustain himself he robs banks with an unloaded flintlock, and he shares his loot with organizations that are looking for missing children. He has “reasoned the truest proof of life [is] pain,” and he vows that he will die before he quits his search. This is much more than a whodunit, though it fills that bill well. It is also a richly layered tale of love, loss, and hope.

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593798874

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2024

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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