A steadfast pace makes for an increasingly intense tale of a malevolent, evasive baddie.




A former Marine and U.S. governor is pitted against a fellow ex-soldier on a global, revenge-fueled murder spree in Vermillion’s (It’s Not Dark Yet, 2017, etc.) thriller.

Everything is copacetic for former Marine Gen. Simon Pack. His friend James Dahl is a worthy successor to his Montana gubernatorial seat, and Pack plans on marrying girlfriend Keeley Eliopoulos, complete with a Greece honeymoon. But a train derailment in Idaho begets personal tragedy and sends Pack into a depression. This may be why he’s unprepared for Blaise Paschal, who stops by Pack’s Montana cabin, claiming to have been part of his military unit. The Pentagon already has Paschal in its sights. He’s been murdering people around the world—anyone he believes is responsible for an ambush years ago in Iraq that killed Americans but that Paschal evidently survived. When it’s clear that Paschal’s vengeance entails abducting Pack, the general’s friends, from his right-hand man, Tetu Palaita, to Sheriff Joe Mollison, are determined to bring him home. Paschal is a formidable foe. He skillfully adopts new identities and continues to target various individuals. Pack, however, has the tenacity to stop him, notwithstanding his status as a kidnap victim. Though the fourth novel in Vermillion’s series sports some action, melodrama rules much of the story’s setup. It effectively establishes the protagonist, particularly for readers just joining the series, and makes him a sympathetic character even before his abduction. Still, the best scenes involve Paschal, whom the author gives a rich, disturbing background. And it’s especially unsettling to watch the villain stalk potential victims in different U.S. states. For example, he shadows a target’s wife and her friends to a gym and casually sits at the juice bar for a coffee and bagel. The inevitable showdown near the end between Pack and Paschal is a terrific payoff and unsurprisingly violent.

A steadfast pace makes for an increasingly intense tale of a malevolent, evasive baddie.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-980359-72-2

Page Count: 323

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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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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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