A coming-of-age/femme fatale story that doesn’t quite get where it’s going.

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The Year of the Dog

A young insurance investigator in Washington, D.C., falls into the orbit of a mysterious couple in this overstuffed thriller.

It all starts with a used Porsche. After finding blood stains on the passenger-side floor, new buyer Keith Gwynn decides to track down the previous owner, Tara. She’s cagey; Keith isn’t sure whether to believe that was really animal blood on the car floor. But she’s exotically beautiful and seems interested in Keith, who ignores any red flags—like Sef, the man Tara lives with, a hulking martial arts expert who nevertheless invites Keith to ask Tara out. A steamy romance ensues, with Keith thrilled to parade a gorgeous woman on his arm around D.C.’s hottest spots. But questions remain and concerns grow, especially when Keith snoops through Tara’s bag and finds disturbing connections among Sef, Tara and the ambitious Senator Cobb, all somehow tied to Costa Rica and Myanmar. Debut novelist Keppler surrounds his tale with a good deal of doom-tinged backshadowing, but this long, overwritten book can’t sustain the murders and conspiracies piled upon the central event. Additionally, Keith’s claims of naïve innocence ring false, seeing that he starts things off by buying a Porsche and cheating on his girlfriend. Foolish, yes; innocent, not so much. Keppler’s phrasing can be clumsy or foreign-sounding: “Little later, also Tara and I left [the restaurant].” Another odd choice is describing sex acts in full but using asterisks to denote profanity. Other lines can be a mouthful: “Like a pair of degenerate maggots oblivious to the fate of the organism supporting them, my eyes sucked themselves through the leather and the fabric trying to sense the skin, the flesh, the moisture and the softness that hid underneath.” Keppler makes some knowing observations of the D.C. scene, but they’re sometimes hard to find amid the overcooked prose. A copy editing cleanup wouldn’t hurt, either.

A coming-of-age/femme fatale story that doesn’t quite get where it’s going.

Pub Date: April 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1479243440

Page Count: 480

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2013

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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