A penetrating, provocative tale of a detective who psychoanalyzes as often as he investigates.

And Wind Will Wash Away

A NOVEL

An Atlanta detective, hoping to explain his mistress’s fiery death, dives into a world rife with strange religious beliefs in Rothacker’s (The Pit, and No Other Stories, 2015, etc.) unconventional thriller.

Police Detective Sgt. Jonathan Wind keeps his relationship with prostitute Flora Ross a secret from everyone, including his girlfriend, Monica. So he says nothing when he recognizes a crime scene: it’s Flora’s apartment, including what appear to be her charred remains. The fire seems to have been concentrated on her body, damaging little else, so Wind’s partner, Detective Sonny Ledbetter, suggests spontaneous combustion as the cause. The detectives first question psychic Tia Maite, whom Flora saw weekly, but once it’s clear that the investigation’s going nowhere, Sonny closes the case by marking the death as accidental. Wind, however, was in love with Flora and is determined to learn more about her “spiritual pursuits”—a part of her life she kept private. He cashes in his vacation days and initiates an unofficial inquiry. After he meets Flora’s friends and interacts with a group of Goddess worshippers, he ultimately examines his own views on various religions, identifying himself as an agnostic. He also becomes sure that a Goethe-quoting albino dwarf had something to do with Flora’s demise, which is seemingly confirmed when two other men accost Wind while citing Goethe passages. Answers may finally lie within a bizarre ritual—but not necessarily the answers Wind wants. Although a traditional detective story provides the foundation of this novel’s plot, the author zeroes in on his protagonist’s inner conflict. There’s a great deal of philosophizing, including a nearly 20-page dialogue on such subjects as philosopher Immanuel Kant and theism’s limitations. Wind, though, has many nuances, and his collection of myriad Pez dispensers (all of historical figures) sometimes sparks discourse or, in one case, flashbacks. Rothacker’s prose meticulously details the action and environment with typically exquisite results: “a solid one-story brick house…corresponded to a darker, ink-rendered version beneath the pen of Jonathan Wind.” Metaphors of fire and wind are in abundance in this story, which is more concerned with understanding than resolution. Readers may be disappointed by the ending, though, which eschews a nice, clean wrap-up and fully embraces lingering doubt.

A penetrating, provocative tale of a detective who psychoanalyzes as often as he investigates.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-944193-26-3

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Deeds Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

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THE SECRET HISTORY

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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