For Coetzee completists, though not up to masterworks like Waiting for the Barbarians and Life & Times of Michael K.


Nobel Prize–winning author Coetzee concludes the biblically tinged trilogy he began with The Childhood of Jesus in 2013.

The title gives it all away, though it’s not the familiar Jesus who dies. Instead, it’s Coetzee’s protagonist, David, now 10 years old. Readers of the predecessor volumes will recall that he’s a foundling, although his adoptive father and mother, in their roles more or less by accident, aren’t quite sure what to do with him. David is a handful, committed to reading only one book, a child’s version of Don Quixote. Simón, the father, recalls that he borrowed the book from a library in Novilla, a city in an unnamed but presumably Latin American country, and “instead of returning it to the library as a good citizen would have done, David kept it for himself.” It becomes the willful boy’s lodestone. Meanwhile, he decides that, since he’s an orphan, he ought to live in an orphanage—and one just happens to be handy, one whose director is recruiting a soccer team. David is a natural standout at the game, and he becomes the ringleader of a crew of—well, disciples, to whom he imparts a message that none will reveal when he sickens, the victim of a mysterious ailment, and dies. Figures from those predecessor volumes turn up, including Simón’s bête noire, Dmitri, who knows David’s thoughts as well as anyone; another character named Alyosha provides a second allusion to The Brothers Karamazov, though most of the characters bear names straight out of the Bible. As for David’s mother, Inés, the death of her son is enough to drive her away, “leaving the man alone in a strange city, mourning his losses.” Coetzee’s tone is flat and matter-of-fact throughout, and the book feels slightly underdone, with several unanswered questions—the most central of them that message, at which we can only guess.

For Coetzee completists, though not up to masterworks like Waiting for the Barbarians and Life & Times of Michael K.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-8090-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Be patient—once the Le Creuset pot finally starts boiling, this book earns its place on the beach blanket.


A self-made Black millionaire invites her three goddaughters for a last Martha's Vineyard summer—at the end of which one will get the mansion.

In the first volume of a planned trilogy, Terry McMillan meets Elin Hilderbrand: There are strong Black women in a lovingly detailed coastal Massachusetts location amid clothes, food, and long-kept secrets. Hostin's grande dame, New Orleans–born Amelia "Ama" Vaux, once known as the "Witch of Wall Street," has buried the other half of her long, seemingly perfect marriage. Power lawyer Omar Tanner, "a quiet man who looked good in suits"—almost every man in this book looks good in or out of suits and resembles Denzel Washington, Billy Dee Williams, Dev Patel, or Paul Newman's little brother—has collaborated with his wife on her fairy godmother project. Instead of having their own children, they chose young Perry, Olivia, and Billie, filling their plebeian lives with monied ease and Vineyard summers in the elite Black enclave of Oak Bluffs. Now Ama is ready to pass on Chateau Laveau to one of them while bestowing equal, but unnamed, gifts on the others. She arranges several months off for all three women, now a high-powered lawyer, financier, and marine biologist (she's a witch, all right), and flies them up for a summer that promises to end with not just the gifts, but with revelations. It takes a little too long to get there, though some may enjoy the leisurely setup and relentless name-checking—a concordance of the Black visual artists, musicians, authors, actors, designers, and celebrities mentioned here, along with the New York and Martha's Vineyard restaurants and bars, could be a valuable book in itself. Hostin's most serious weakness is substituting catalog copy for characterization—one character "look[s] fierce in a charcoal-gray Rachel Comey jumpsuit"; another "add[s] a pair of playful Sophia Webster sneakers"; Ama chooses a "chinoiserie recherché and mysterious as her eldest goddaughter."

Be patient—once the Le Creuset pot finally starts boiling, this book earns its place on the beach blanket.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299417-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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