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DEATH AT THE SIGN OF THE ROOK

Even when she’s not at her best, Atkinson is still pretty good.

In his sixth outing, Jackson Brodie finds himself trapped in an Agatha Christie novel that is also a Jackson Brodie novel.

The story begins with Jackson attending a murder-mystery weekend at “one of England’s premier stately homes.” Lady Milton, the doyenne of Burton Makepeace House, is confused by the large cast of characters. The private investigator himself can’t wait for this farce to be over. “It hasn’t even begun properly yet,” Detective Constable Regina Chase informs him. This setup is as delicious as it is improbable; there is no one in popular fiction less likely to enjoy a whodunit starring Reverend Smallbones and Countess Voranskaya than Atkinson’s world-weary (but intensely empathetic) private investigator. Before we get a chance to see how this situation unfolds, though, the narrative jumps backward a week to introduce Jackson’s latest clients. Hazel and Ian, the twin offspring of the late Dorothy Padgett, have hired the former police detective because someone—probably Dorothy’s carer—has stolen a Renaissance painting that hung in her bedroom. Next, Atkinson reintroduces Lady Milton, whose estate boasted a Turner until someone—probably the housekeeper—absconded with it. This chapter, which is just over 20 pages, is followed by a chapter spent in the company of Reverend Simon Cate. This is 16 pages that feels like a lot more. Rereading the opening scene at this point gives one the sense that Atkinson is describing her own novel: There are too many characters, and it’s a bit slow. This is funny in the way that Atkinson is often funny, but the critique stands. By the time he returns, even Jackson seems attenuated. Reading about him reading about art theft is about as exciting as it sounds. The pace does pick up, eventually, and fans who stick around will get what they came for.

Even when she’s not at her best, Atkinson is still pretty good.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2024

ISBN: 9780385547994

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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SANDWICH

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

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During an annual beach vacation, a mother confronts her past and learns to move forward.

Her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod is always the highlight of Rocky’s year—even more so now that her children are grown and she cherishes what little time she gets with them. Rocky is deep in the throes of menopause, picking fights with her loving husband and occasionally throwing off her clothes during a hot flash, much to the chagrin of her family. She’s also dealing with her parents, who are crammed into the same small summer house (with one toilet that only occasionally spews sewage everywhere) and who are aging at an alarmingly rapid rate. Rocky’s life is full of change, from her body to her identity—she frequently flashes back to the vacations of years past, when her children were tiny. Although she’s grateful for the family she has, she mourns what she’s lost. Newman (author of the equally wonderful We All Want Impossible Things, 2022) imbues Rocky’s internal struggles with importance and gravity, all while showcasing her very funny observations about life and parenting. She examines motherhood with a raw honesty that few others manage—she remembers the hard parts, the depths of despair, panic, and anxiety that can happen with young children, and she also recounts the joy in a way that never feels saccharine. She has a gift for exploring the real, messy contradictions in human emotions. As Rocky puts it, “This may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel.”

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9780063345164

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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