Anderson dedicates his book in memory of such masters of hard-boiled noir as Ross Macdonald, Robert B. Parker, and James...

THE NEVER-OPEN DESERT DINER

The great tradition of hard-boiled crime novels finds new and promising territory in the Utah desert.

Carrying its own cult following after having been published independently last year, this debut novel is a stirring, atmospheric, and even mildly surreal variation on the “mean streets” detective fiction of Raymond Chandler; only it’s not “mean streets” here so much as a stretch of desolate highway—State Road 117—in northern Utah. The loners, drifters, dreamers, ranchers, and survivors who live along this road get almost all their supplies from Ben Jones, a strapping, half-Indian, half-Jewish independent trucker whose sense of humor is as dry and (almost) as bleak as the surrounding landscape. One day, Ben breaks from his daily routine long enough to notice the scattered remains of a half-built housing development whose only completed building “stuck out like a sturdy tooth on an empty gum.” The first time he passes by, he suspects a woman’s squatting there but can’t quite make her out beyond remembering an “oddly striking” face; the second time, he gets a much better look: the same woman, naked, sitting on the porch, playing a cello without strings; the third time, as you might have expected, she’s pointing a gun at him. And we’re off and running on a witty, rollicking, and somewhat bent mystery/romance whose mostly supporting cast includes an itinerant preacher who spends his life lugging a large wooden cross up and down the highway, a pregnant-and-sassy Wal-Mart clerk taking economics college courses, a reality TV producer whose offer to make Ben a star may not be all it’s cracked up to be, and, most important of all, the widowed septuagenarian owner/operator of the novel’s eponymous diner, an empty but well-maintained relic of better days, much like its volatile, two-fisted proprietor whose coarse belligerence cloaks many secrets, at least one of which is literally too awful to behold.

Anderson dedicates his book in memory of such masters of hard-boiled noir as Ross Macdonald, Robert B. Parker, and James Crumley, and it’s the latter’s gift for poetic description, antic violence, and roadside gothic that resounds most in what one hopes will be the beginning of a beautiful series.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90652-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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