A manic, combustive novel about complex systems and the motivations that power them.

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SOMETHING AFTER ALL

A young man’s life is disrupted by the appearance of a preternaturally gifted co-worker in Daulton’s new-adult novel.

Nineteen-year-old slacker Dean Sardelle resents having to work in the family pet store, Fred’s Fish, particularly after his sister, Sheila—his parents’ favorite—goes off to college. Business is not booming, and part of the reason may be the decision by Dean’s father, Mort, to specialize in less-popular fish, such as mackerel, cod, and carp. Sheila’s tuition is costing the family a small fortune, and Dean’s seriously ill mother’s medical bills are a burden, as well. That’s why Midas Murphy is such a godsend. The strange old man walks into the shop one day looking for a job, and it turns out that he’s a master salesman. He helps Dean modernize the business, which drastically increases their profits. Dean gets to share in the credit for Midas’ ideas, and his life improves materially because of it—he even winds up with a company car—but Midas continues to expand in new, weirder directions. Dean soon finds himself in charge of staffing and managing a factory producing a pesticide spray for a microscopic “miter” bug that’s he’s pretty sure Midas made up. Things get even stranger when Midas establishes a connection to a new religion centered on the bug, the First Davis Church of the Miter, which quickly proves itself to be a cult. Dean strikes out on his own with Sardelle’s Sanity Secure, a company in the business of rescuing minors from the cult’s clutches. Soon he’s tasked with finding and rescuing cult recruit Mary Agneau—despite the fact that he’s not at all qualified to do such work. Dean has never been a self-starter, but now he’ll have to rise to the occasion in order to fix the very problems that he helped to create.

Over the course of this book, Daulton employs a prose style that is consistently spirited and sharp, and it ably captures Dean’s angst and irony-ridden view of the increasingly strange happenings around him: “I didn’t mind getting high and playing Xbox from time to time, but that’s a lot different from getting high and hanging around a 250-pound cult leader who is watching your every move. I knew because I’d tried it my second night there, attempting to fit in, and it was awful.” There are some moments of casual misogyny in the narrative that have the effect of making Dean less likable than he should be, but overall, his situation remains a compelling one throughout the novel. Midas’ endless, reckless, exponential entrepreneurship makes for a clever comment on late capitalism, and the reader’s anxiety will grow as quickly as the Sardelles’ profits do. The novel, with its cartoonish, dark didacticism, is reminiscent in some ways of Roald Dahl’s works for adults. Overall, the book is perhaps slightly overlong at more than 370 pages, but the storytelling skills on display here will be sure to keep the reader glued to the page.

A manic, combustive novel about complex systems and the motivations that power them.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Daulton Books

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2020

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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