An engaging, slow-burning political mystery set in Manila.


Murillo's Million

Holm details the convoluted dealings of a Filipino politician in this debut novel.

Manuel Murillo has experienced a setback. “A congressman for nine years, with business interests in coconut oil, provincial bus lines, and property, Murillo was in his late sixties and no longer the strong man he had once been.” He has recently lost a senatorial election that should have been his. What’s more, he’s been contacted by a mysterious priest who seems to know a lot about Murillo’s past dealings. Meeting at a restaurant in Manila, the priest outlines a peculiar crisis at a shipping company in distant Norway, where a businessman has disappeared after transferring $1 million to the Filipino capital. The money is unaccounted for. Murillo knows that the funds—a kickback—had been meant to help him with his campaign. What he doesn’t know is why the priest keeps bringing up a teenage former mistress of Murillo’s from more than 20 years ago: a girl he put on a bus to Santa Rita but who apparently never arrived there. “Every day in every town in this country of ours, the rich and powerful take advantage of the less fortunate,” the enigmatic priest reminds Murillo. “I know only too well.” Holm unfolds his mystery through the meandering, detail-savoring narrative of the priest, while the reader sits, like Murillo, wondering where the tale is headed and what it all means. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, this rambling account might be frustrating, but Holm’s textured prose summons the energy and fatigue of the priest in such a way that it keeps the reader drifting forward with unsuspecting mirth. The true pleasure of the novel is the atmosphere, rendered in a language that evokes Manila’s chaotic fullness while still hinting at its ghosts: “The swell of people and vehicles rolled slowly southward, but the flood was smaller now because the commuters had started to trickle away into the dark landscape.” The intrigue is just serpentine enough to feel realistic, and while the conclusion is less than earth-shattering, the experience is more than satisfactory.

An engaging, slow-burning political mystery set in Manila.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5188-2714-3

Page Count: 214

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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