A profound, harrowing examination of violence in the 21st century.

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NO WINTER LASTS FOREVER

In this debut novel, a man becomes obsessed with tracking the online identity of a person who may be behind a string of shootings.

When 50-something Jack Warner hears of a tragic shooting at a local Missouri high school, he’s angry. Though the transportation logistics analyst has no kids, the violent event triggers his outrage over such things as corrupt businesses and “soulless” news broadcasts. But he’s even more distraught by what he sees on his 23-year-old nephew Luke’s computer screen. Luke is using EasyChat, the same online group the high school shooters utilized, and it seems the individuals in a particular chat room are championing the boys’ lethal actions. Jack asks his nephew for the chat room’s password and zeroes in on the moderator, who goes by the handle Fonzie. Jack tracks Fonzie on other sites, like Instagram, and is gradually fascinated by the grisly, deviant content of these online discussions. Then there’s a series of shootings, including at a nearby mall, and Jack believes he may already have his eyes on the person responsible. His obsession grows, as he gains illicit access to police records so he can follow the official investigation and purchases a weapon of his own—not a handgun, but a sniper rifle. Jack is on morally shaky ground since he’s not quite sure how connected Luke is to the group. But he may be in physical danger as well, as it’s easy for any of the chat-room regulars, especially the shooter, to pinpoint his IP and home addresses. Epps’ grim novel is an incisive look at people’s responses to violent tragedies. Jack, for one, toys with the notion of vigilantism, which fortunately the story never glorifies. In fact, in an early scene, Jack’s encounter with “thuggish-looking fellas” outside a convenience store fails to take the perilous turn he apparently anticipates. While Jack’s behavior borders on paranoia over gun-toting teens, it’s clear he’s also attempting to understand those disturbed enough to resort to mass murder. That’s why he initially frequents the chat room and makes efforts to reach Luke, whose angst is palpable. At the same time, the author deftly contrasts Jack with Kathy Cray, a teacher he worked with when he was in the same profession. Back then, her method of handling a troubled male student was to treat him as a problem to be discarded rather than getting the boy help. Epps smartly incorporates social media into the plot and criticizes the users more than the sites themselves. For example, Jack’s online presence ultimately strains his relationship with his girlfriend, Penny Grierson, which he rightly blames on his obsession. His chronic despondency carries over to the arresting but bleak prose. In one instance, he stands on his porch listening to “the sounds of the night” before imagining “people out there in the darker shadows, some dragging their feet like the walking dead, some scanning like predators, some cowering like victims.” Though most readers will predict a plot turn in the final act, two other twists are genuinely shocking and only further the narrative’s somberness.

A profound, harrowing examination of violence in the 21st century.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-61739-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Mess Hall Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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