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SHAVING WITH OCCAM

A giddy journey with an unforgettable sleuth to guide readers.

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A clever amateur detective investigates a murder in this seriocomic mystery.

The tale’s narrator is Henrietta Florence Van Duyn Brigander, aka Granny Flamingo, aka The Mad Bird Lady of East 14th Street. Born into a wealthy and well-connected, if quirky, old family, she slipped into schizophrenia early on in life and has been on the streets or in psychiatric wards ever since. Now, someone in the mental illness ward at Mount Hebron hospital has been murdered. Henrietta is determined to find the killer, especially because she was sweet on the victim, Big George Currier. So it’s off to the races, all over Manhattan and Queens, while the Albanian Mafia may be out to kill her. Readers meet all sorts of street denizens worthy of Dickens, plus some sleazy bureaucrats and time servers: It is the Big Apple full bore. Eventually, Henrietta arrives at a possible solution that is outrageously improbable but somehow logical. The English philosopher William of Ockham would be proud of his acolyte. Appel is clearly having great fun, and Henrietta is a wonderful character. She was born to tell her story, just as Holden Caulfield and Ishmael were. She is talkative and adept at digressions, especially about the history of her illustrious family, piling anecdote upon anecdote. Anyway is her device for gulping for a breath in this cascade. Twins are a motif here. Big George and Little Abe were identical twins, and Henrietta and her deceased brother, Rusky, were fraternal twins (he was also schizophrenic, and he stepped into an empty elevator shaft). The author makes excellent use of this trope (see Shakespeare, et. al.). Besides the vivid Brigander family anecdotes are Henrietta’s intriguing cultural and historical allusions. The woman is a font of trivia and constantly annoyed that others are so clueless. This gives rise to the exhilarating book’s last 50-some pages, which are titled “Glossary of Things You Should Know…” and enlighten readers about all those allusions. Appel is a working psychiatrist (write what you know), among other things—he has picked up advanced degrees almost like a hobby.

A giddy journey with an unforgettable sleuth to guide readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73536-013-3

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Press Americana

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE FIVE-STAR WEEKEND

The people in her books may screw up, but Hilderbrand always gets it right. Kind of amazing.

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A dreamy Nantucket house party given by a meticulous hostess goes off the rails.

“When Hollis posts a potato and white cheddar tart with a crispy bacon crust, her foodie community breaks the one-million-member milestone. (Leave it to bacon!)” And leave it to Hilderbrand, in her 30th book of Nantucket-based fiction, to cook up more literary bacon, this time focusing on female friendship, female “friendship,” and the power of the internet and social media. When Hollis Shaw's doctor husband dies in a crash on the way to the airport, she steps back from Hungry With Hollis, her popular website. After moping around her house in “Swellesley” for a while, she returns to Nantucket for the summer, planning a kick-out-the-stops weekend party that will involve one girlfriend from each phase of her life—youth, college, motherhood—plus her favorite internet follower, an Atlanta-based airline pilot, whom she's never actually met. Two of these old pals are definitely not as close to Hollis as they once were, one of them has done her secret harm, and Hollis dramatically increases the potential for trouble by paying her angry 20-something daughter to document the weekend on film. Add two bottles each of Casa Dragones tequila, Triple 8 vodka, and Veuve Clicquot, plus some Hendricks gin and Mount Gay rum—what could possibly go wrong? Known for gently inserting social commentary into her plots, Hilderbrand here highlights the ridiculous fickleness of cancel culture when one of the characters—Dru-Ann, an extremely successful Black sports agent—almost loses her clients, her job, and her boyfriend when a video clip of a private conversation in a restaurant is posted on social media. Everyone says there's no way forward without a self-effacing apology. Dru-Ann says pass the Casa Dragones. Meanwhile, Hollis is about to learn that friendships forged on the internet are not always what they seem. Hilderbrand has announced plans to retire in 2024. Wait—that's next year! No!

The people in her books may screw up, but Hilderbrand always gets it right. Kind of amazing.

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 9780316258777

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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