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GOBLIN

A NOVEL IN SIX NOVELLAS

An entertaining but ultimately undercooked collection.

In interconnected stories, the author of Bird Box (2014) immerses us in the Midwestern town of Goblin, where it never stops raining, the sun sets a minute before it does in neighboring towns, the dead are buried standing up, and the police "move like...the dead."

Though touted as an all-American tourist attraction, Goblin has been shrouded in spookiness since its original settlers were ambushed by Native Americans. ("Dad says they had it coming. I don’t doubt it," one character says.) It's a place where people obsessively tempt the worst kinds of fates. Determined to bag a Big Owl—an endangered bird no one else has had the temerity to hunt—celebrated big-game hunter Neal Nash departs his wild 60th birthday party to enter into the haunted, off-limits North Woods where the owls reside. A touring magician with the name Roman Emperor strikes a Faustian deal to rise from obscurity with a shocking trick that sends sensitive souls running. Goblin's most celebrated figure, widower Wayne Sherman, who created an impenetrable maze with a chilling secret at the end of it, has his cover blown by a brilliant 9-year-old girl. With its array of misfits, also including a man whose romantic interest talks him into chopping off his toes as a sign of devotion, Malerman's darkly comic portrait of Goblin is not without its grim appeal. He is right at home in the graphic-novel mode—without the graphics, save for occasional full-page illustrations by Chadbourne. But most of the stories lack either any real sense of surprise or a satisfying payoff. And a few of them drag on. Give the author credit, though, for continuing to explore alternative realities with alternative fictional approaches.

An entertaining but ultimately undercooked collection.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-23780-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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