Fine work almost to the end, then a bitter disappointment.

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LOST

Another taut suburban thriller from Fielding (Whispers and Lies, 2002, etc.), this one a psychological exploration of a mother whose daughter disappears.

On Tuesday, Cindy meets friends for lunch so they can discuss movie picks for the upcoming Toronto Film Festival, goes to her niece’s bridal fitting, has supper with a surprisingly charming blind date. She has no idea that her morning spat with daughter Julia would be their last, for as the narrator ominously opines, “great calamity, like great evil, often springs from the womb of the hopelessly mundane.” Julia, a selfish and hard 21-year-old beauty, showed up at her big audition with a famed Hollywood director, but failed to return home that Tuesday night, or the next night, or the next. Cindy is understandably frantic, imagining the worst—so easy to imagine, since the worst is the subject of every popular TV show and film—wondering what happened to her elder daughter. There are a few suspects: the director; Julia’s ex-boyfriend, a writer who’s taken naughty photos of Julia and written a grisly tale of torture about her; Duncan, the boyfriend of Julia’s younger sister Heather; and Ryan, Cindy’s next-door neighbor, a handsome architect with a colicky infant and a suicidally depressed wife. Cindy accuses and confronts everyone, knowing that as each day goes by there is less and less chance of finding Julia. She silently berates herself: she is a bad mother, she drove Julia away (just like when the teenager chose to live with her father), only she can save her daughter. Fielding is a skillful storyteller, but all the fine-tuned details do little to save this otherwise compelling tale from its own ending, an intentionally “surprising” and “shocking” finale that nullifies the previous 350 pages. Akin to the shopworn “it was all a dream” ploy, this about-face simultaneously cheats and hoodwinks readers of a true catharsis.

Fine work almost to the end, then a bitter disappointment.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7434-4629-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2003

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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