As each of the primary characters tells his version of events, Troy’s subtle but emotionally wrenching prose raises deeply...

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THE QUIET STREETS OF WINSLOW

Within the framework of a murder mystery set in small-town Arizona, Troy (From the Black Hills, 1999, etc.) has written a tightly constructed psychological study about a family and community.

Fourteen-year-old Travis and his younger brother Damien find a woman’s body while walking their dog in Black Canyon City, Ariz., where their father, Lee, is a veterinarian. Lee’s best friend, Sam, is the local sheriff investigating the case, which soon points uncomfortably close to home. It turns out the dead woman is Jody, a waitress whom the boys met with Lee when he took them to visit their much older half brother Nate, the son Lee had in his troubled, alcoholic youth before he became the upstanding citizen, family man and father he is now. Raised by his single mother and now in his early 30s, Nate had a rough time growing up and has become an underachieving loner who manages a trailer park in Chino Valley, where he met Jody. Drawn to her physically—as is every man she meets—and sympathetic to her grief over giving up her daughter to the Indian parents of the baby’s father, Nate let Jody live in his trailer for six months. Although he was clearly in love with her and she was giving her sexual favors elsewhere, their relationship remained platonic until she moved back to her hometown of Winslow to be closer to her mother. Nate visited Jody at least once, but no one, including the reader, wants to believe he was the murderer; certainly not Travis, who is having his own coming-of-age experience of unrequited love, or Lee, feeling guilty that he failed Nate as a father. Trying to remain objective, Sam finds navigating through the evidence particularly difficult. And soon, he finds other men who had questionable relationships with Jody and who lack alibis for the murder.

As each of the primary characters tells his version of events, Troy’s subtle but emotionally wrenching prose raises deeply provocative questions about loyalty, morality, human frailty and the power of choice.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61902-239-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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