Papernick (The Ascent of Eli Israel, 2002, etc.) plows fresh ground in this terrorist thriller, but for all the book's...

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THE BOOK OF STONE

Following the death of his father, a disgraced judge, psychologically disheveled Matthew Stone is drawn into a pre-9/11 terrorist plot by Jewish extremists in Brooklyn.

Stone, an only child whose grandfather was a notorious gangster, clings to the belief that his father was clean—that he didn't, among other alleged misdeeds, rig a jury to let off the Jewish killer of a Palestinian shopkeeper. The substance-abusing, self-mutilating Matthew's greatest source of comfort is wearing the judge's robes and reading his vast collection of books, viewing the underlined passages as clues to his distant old man's true identity. But Stone's misery and confusion intensify with the sudden appearance of his Israeli "Uncle Zal," an old friend of his father's, who, beneath his expressions of caring and religiosity, is mainly interested in gaining access to the vast amount of money the judge left behind; Matthew's mother, an acclaimed painter who left the family when he was 12, who now warns him to stay away from Zal; and an FBI agent who wants Stone to be his confidential informant on the terrorist plot. At its best, the book is a gripping and timely look into a subculture that's bonded by loyalty but driven by hate to avenge anti-Jewish crimes. Papernick, a Boston-based Toronto native who's spent time in Israel, does a good job of sketching the historical context of his characters' actions. But Stone is so self-loathing that he never earns our sympathy, and he's such a bundle of unresolved conflict and doubt that even the author seems unsure of who he is in the end. His ill-fated romances, with a Palestinian girl in Jerusalem and a Jewish girl with hidden motives in Brooklyn, are the least successful parts of the novel.

Papernick (The Ascent of Eli Israel, 2002, etc.) plows fresh ground in this terrorist thriller, but for all the book's strong background elements, the young protagonist is such a mess that he loses the reader's interest.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-94149-304-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Fig Tree Books

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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