Stop this world, you’ll want to get off.

THE GOOD AND THE GHASTLY

A thousand years after the apocalypse or Armageddon or something, Visa Second America finds history repeating itself through an attempt to recast civilization from its ashes.

The third and most audacious novel by Boice (NoVa, 2008, etc.) is futuristic without being science fiction or even speculative fiction. Because except for the fact that Visa has now branded itself on pretty much everything (from the name of every country to psychological conditions including “Visa Schizophrenia and Visa Bipolar Disorder”), the 34th century isn’t appreciably different from the present. Maybe young people are a little meaner and more desperate, and maybe ruling officials are more corrupt in their relations with organized crime, but the author’s social commentary plainly sees these as matters of degree rather than transformation: “They were sociopaths. But they were human beings. And human beings are all alike. Always have been, always will be.” Such are the reflections of the protagonist and frequent first-person narrator, Junior Alvarez, an Irishman (yes, it’s that kind of novel), engaged in interminable conflict with the Italians. The reader meets Junior as an incarcerated juvenile delinquent, who thinks he’s the reincarnation of Alejandro el Grande (until he realizes that Bob Dylan is the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, and that he, Junior, is the reincarnation of Bob Dylan, writer of such classics as “Imagine,” “Auld Lang Syne” and “Beat It"). He later becomes a flunky, a hoodlum, a combination community leader and drug pusher and, through the novel’s extended finale, a crook on the lam. In a plot that seems more like a graphic novel or a screenplay than the literary fiction to which it seems to aspire, he finds himself pitted against a mother whose son he battered in a street brawl. Much of the novel that isn’t narrated by Junior finds his female adversary wreaking vengeance against society in general and stalking Junior in particular. Justice is served…maybe.

Stop this world, you’ll want to get off.

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7544-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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A top-notch psychological thriller.

COLD COLD HEART

In Hoag’s (The 9th Girl, 2013, etc.) latest, talented young newscaster Dana Nolan is left to navigate a psychological maze after escaping a serial killer.

While recuperating at home in Shelby Mills, Indiana, Dana meets her former high school classmates John Villante and Tim Carver. Football hero Tim is ashamed of flunking out of West Point, and now he’s a sheriff’s deputy. After Iraq and Afghanistan tours, John’s home with PTSD, "angry and bitter and dark." Dana survived abduction by serial killer Doc Holiday, but she still suffers from the gruesome attack by "the man who ruined her life, destroyed her career, shattered her sense of self, damaged her brain and her face." What binds the trio is their friend Casey Grant, who's been missing five years, perhaps also a Holiday victim, even if "[t]he odds against that kind of coincidence had to be astronomical." Hoag’s first 100 pages are a gut-wrenching dissection of the aftereffects of traumatic brain injury: Dana is plagued by "[f]ear, panic, grief, and anger" and haunted by fractured memories and nightmares. "Before Dana had believed in the inherent good in people. After Dana knew firsthand their capacity for evil." Impulsive and paranoid, Dana obsesses over linking Casey’s disappearance to Holiday, with her misfiring brain convincing her that "finding the truth about what had happened to Casey [was] her chance of redemption." But then Hoag tosses suspects into the narrative faster than Dana can count: Roger Mercer, Dana’s self-absorbed state senator stepfather; Mack Villante, who left son John with "no memories of his father that didn’t include drunkenness and cruelty"; even Hardy, the hard-bitten, cancer-stricken detective who investigated Casey’s disappearance. Tense, tightly woven, with every minor character, from Dana’s fiercely protective aunt to Mercer’s pudgy campaign chief, ratcheting up the tension, Hoag’s narrative explodes with an unexpected but believable conclusion.

A top-notch psychological thriller.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-95454-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

A KILLER EDITION

Too much free time leads a New Hampshire bookseller into yet another case of murder.

Now that Tricia Miles has Pixie Poe and Mr. Everett practically running her bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, she finds herself at loose ends. Her wealthy sister, Angelica, who in the guise of Nigela Ricita has invested heavily in making Stoneham a bookish tourist attraction, is entering the amateur competition for the Great Booktown Bake-Off. So Tricia, who’s recently taken up baking as a hobby, decides to join her and spends a lot of time looking for the perfect cupcake recipe. A visit to another bookstore leaves Tricia witnessing a nasty argument between owner Joyce Widman and next-door neighbor Vera Olson over the trimming of tree branches that hang over Joyce’s yard—also overheard by new town police officer Cindy Pearson. After Tricia accepts Joyce’s offer of some produce from her garden, they find Vera skewered by a pitchfork, and when Police Chief Grant Baker arrives, Joyce is his obvious suspect. Ever since Tricia moved to Stoneham, the homicide rate has skyrocketed (Poisoned Pages, 2018, etc.), and her history with Baker is fraught. She’s also become suspicious about the activities at Pets-A-Plenty, the animal shelter where Vera was a dedicated volunteer. Tricia’s offered her expertise to the board, but president Toby Kingston has been less than welcoming. With nothing but baking on her calendar, Tricia has plenty of time to investigate both the murder and her vague suspicions about the shelter. Plenty of small-town friendships and rivalries emerge in her quest for the truth.

An anodyne visit with Tricia and her friends and enemies hung on a thin mystery.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0272-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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