Dark, enthralling examination of a murderer and his victims, even those who survive.

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GARDEN OF LOCUSTS

In Ruby’s (Weeping Water, 2016) thriller, twin brothers’ lives are irrevocably changed when they cross paths with a serial killer.

When their parents separate in 1976, Ben and Owen Hood leave their Nashville home with their mom, Karen. The teenagers quickly adapt to and cherish Karen’s family farm in Alabama. But things take a frightening turn when they explore a cornfield, though Ben’s secret purpose is tracking a mysterious set of footprints. The brothers unfortunately encounter and flee from Eli Crisp, a serial killer who’s evaded authorities for years. Eli captures but doesn’t immediately kill them. After Ben and Owen attempt an escape, only one brother gets away, leaving Eli to abscond with his remaining captive. Meanwhile, Simon Singleton, a detective and British expat in Montana, is obsessed with identifying the serial killer. But he can’t even convince his superiors that one exists, as Eli’s M.O. involves seemingly random victims. When certain the killer is in Alabama, Simon asks for time off and heads south. Determined to put a face and a name to the serial murderer, he may have an ally in the Hood brother who got away, as both of them believe the other twin is still alive and under the thumb of a dangerous, prolific killer. Ruby’s lengthy novel covers years that ultimately reach the 1980s. It’s ample space for meticulous character development, including backstory about Eli’s troubled childhood and the brothers’ relationships with their often indifferent father. The story astutely addresses issues of racism, as, it seems, cops aren’t searching for Eli’s captive because the twins, like Simon, are black. Eli is terrifying, primarily due to his calculatedness; he wants to be famous and, on learning that Simon is pursuing him, taunts the detective with a signed letter promising another murder. Disappointingly, female characters merely help to drive the male-dominated storylines (as romantic interests, for example); tenacious, shrewd Karen is an exception. Overall, Ruby’s unadorned writing unflinchingly befits the story’s frequent bleakness while allowing for humor, such as a recurring joke involving people who think expat Simon’s lilt is Australian.

Dark, enthralling examination of a murderer and his victims, even those who survive.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-65377-366-4

Page Count: 475

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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