An overly complicated mystery with an engaging protagonist.

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VENGEANCE IN THE WIND

After a man is murdered in a Halloween haunted house, a psychic Midwest lawyer investigates the killing in this sixth installment of a series. 

Thirty-year-old Megan Docket, an attorney in tiny Dexter, Nebraska, specializes in estate planning, but—as described in five previous novels—she has found herself investigating and solving criminal cases, most recently a double murder, and has killed many times in self-defense. She’s helped by a warm community of friends and family and by the supernatural: Megan is warned of danger by presentiments and voices she hears in the winds scouring the dry bluffs near her house. As the book opens, Megan is still traumatized by recent events, such as the loss of her unborn child, and is troubled by problems in her new marriage to Jay Young, a lieutenant in the State Patrol. In need of distraction, she agrees to help plan a haunted house for Halloween. Finally open to the public, the house becomes the site of a murder, and the sheriff arrests the wrong man. Megan and her allies set out to find the truth, leading to a dangerous confrontation with the real killers—who hold her mother and Docket Law employees hostage. To outwit them, Megan will need to muster her associates and mount a daring rescue. Bruce (Game Six, 2018, etc.) provides, as always, a strong sense of place, diverse characters, and a twisty mystery. The main investigation story is rounded out by domestic concerns, such as Megan’s worries about her new marriage. Contradictions in her character make her a complex subject, one as likely to protect herself with deadly force as to generously help others. But these strengths become overwhelmed by the tale’s giant plethora of names and relationships, which (even with effective exposition) overtake the storytelling, slow the pace, and burden readers with attempts to keep things straight. Book 5 provided a cast list, but this one has no such memory aid. In addition, the voices-in-the-wind plot element becomes a little tired, even perfunctory, in this outing, which doesn’t live up to previous volumes.

An overly complicated mystery with an engaging protagonist.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68731-846-6

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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