Written with fresh confidence and verve, this first novel is a bibliophile’s delight, with plenty of title-dropping and...

THE LAST BOOK PARTY

A young woman with literary aspirations jumps at the chance to become a summer assistant for a prestigious author in Dukess’ bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel.

It’s June 1987, and Eve Rosen is star-struck as she walks up the driveway of the summer home of New Yorker writer Henry Grey, for the guests are “Truro’s summer elite, the writers, editors, poets, and artists who left their apartments in Manhattan and Boston around Memorial Day and stayed on Cape Cod into September.” An editorial secretary at Henry’s New York publisher, Eve is thrilled to meet the man whose correspondence with her, however brief, is the highlight of her job. She is also dazzled by Henry’s attractive son, Franny, and Henry’s aloof wife, the poet Tillie Sanderson. With dreams of becoming a writer, yet lacking confidence, Eve longs to join this world, so very different from her Jewish parents’ suburban, middle-class lifestyle. “I was buoyed by a sense of possibility. A tentative belief that I could have a creative life too.” Returning to Manhattan, Eve meets her boss’s new literary discovery, snobbish Jeremy Grand, who went to school with Franny. Jealous of Jeremy’s connections with the Greys and his early success, Eve reads his unpublished novel and is stunned by the power of his voice. Her doubts about her own abilities grow, but when Eve is bypassed for a promotion, she quits her job and accepts Henry’s offer to work as his research assistant for the summer. Her decision leads her to some hard (if somewhat predictable) truths that are exposed at the Greys’ annual book costume party. Eve is an appealing protagonist, naïve and yet assertive in trying to find her own voice as an artist.

Written with fresh confidence and verve, this first novel is a bibliophile’s delight, with plenty of title-dropping and humorous digs at the publishing scene of the 1980s. The lyrical evocations of the Cape Cod landscape will also enchant readers seeking that perfect summer read.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-22547-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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