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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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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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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