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A stunningly bold novel composed with great authorial confidence.

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A retired homicide detective assists a friend whose daughter is threatened by a violent stalker in Manos’ thriller.

Larry Klinger, retired from the Chicago Police Department for six years and anguished over the death of his 6-year-old son, Mattie, spends his time aimlessly riding the subway, emotionally adrift. Realizing his pain has only grown deeper as decades pass, he seeks solace in group therapy and becomes friends with a handful of men, all of whom have suffered the trauma of losing a child. The author affectingly portrays the bond Klinger forms with his brothers in commiseration: “And it was less that he felt like he knew the personalities, hopes, or fears of the men beyond what he was learning each week, he explained, than a sense that they all knew something about themselves and one another that they all desperately wished they did not know.” Dan McVie, one of them, frets anxiously over the safety of his daughter, Andrea—the boyfriend she recently dumped, Marco Bala, is an angry man with violent tendencies, and he stubbornly stalks her. Marco becomes increasingly threatening, and, after receiving an order of protection demanding he steer clear of Andrea, he assaults her and menaces McVie’s wife, Sharon. Out of desperation, McVie wonders aloud if he should hire a hit man to kill Marco or simply do the job himself. Klinger is tortured by the impossibility of Andrea’s predicament—he knows that the police cannot arrest Marco and that Marco will never be satisfied until Andrea is dead; he confesses to his wife, Dora, “I don’t have any doubts about where this is headed, though.”

The narrative is a forlornly painful one—all of the principal characters are tormented by unspeakable loss, and their personal traumas are portrayed with extraordinary insight. The author’s prose is generally plain and foursquare—the power of Klinger’s melancholy is only increased by the spare simplicity of his mode of expression. Still, Manos is more than capable of poetic incisiveness—he describes Marco’s obsession with Andrea memorably: “But as subsequent days passed, a growing matrix of suspicions about Andrea’s social life preyed on Marco’s mind like a cracked tooth.” Despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, Marco insists they are “soulmates,” though Klinger astutely understands that Marco is less obsessed with possessing Andrea than he is with courting conflict. Klinger is a richly complex character—still reeling from the death of his young son, he can’t bear the thought of McVie losing another of his children and is haunted by the fact that the tragedy is all but a forgone conclusion. “So, basically, I want to prevent this guy from losing another daughter in a way that looks too damned inevitable for my taste.” The author wraps a psychologically astute tale of emotional conflict in a crime drama, the latter just as intelligently conceived as the former. This is a remarkable novel—poignant and provocative.

A stunningly bold novel composed with great authorial confidence.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 9781956872132

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Amika Press

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2023

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A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

A one-eyed boy becomes a monster’s prey in this chilling tale of missing children.

Thirteen-year-old Missouri boy Joseph “Patch” Macauley was born with one eye, so he wears an eye patch and imagines himself a pirate. In 1975, he sees a masked man assaulting a girl in the woods. He attacks the man and saves her, but the predator kidnaps him instead. Patch eventually wakes in total darkness in a cellar where a different girl secretly visits him, heard but always unseen. He learns that her name is Grace and that there have been other girls down there before. Grace paints vivid word pictures of the places she’s seen and of stories by authors like Steinbeck. “Pray and stay alive,” she whispers to Patch. Eventually he escapes, but she is nowhere to be found. Searching for Grace is the underlying thread in a complicated quest that takes unexpected turns over the years and might well bring heartbreak. Meanwhile, the bodies of three girls turn up locally, and their parents grieve. Is the town doctor responsible for their deaths? A local school photographer? Both? Patch paints an image of Grace based only on what he’d heard from her in the cellar; then come more paintings and displays in an art gallery—an implausible achievement for an untrained artist. Meanwhile, Grace may be anywhere, and he must find her whether alive or dead. By now an adult, he “pinball[s]” from state to state, meeting with “a dozen families looking for a dozen lost girls.” To sustain himself he robs banks with an unloaded flintlock, and he shares his loot with organizations that are looking for missing children. He has “reasoned the truest proof of life [is] pain,” and he vows that he will die before he quits his search. This is much more than a whodunit, though it fills that bill well. It is also a richly layered tale of love, loss, and hope.

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593798874

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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