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THE BLACKBIRD SEASON

Moretti’s tale of jealousy and obsession is nothing less than dark magic. Witchery indeed.

Crime fiction adores girls in trouble. Moretti’s latest nail-biter (The Vanishing Year, 2016, etc.) is no exception, but it is exceptional.

Alecia and Nate Winters are the golden couple of Mt. Oanoke, Pennsylvania. Nate teaches math and coaches baseball at the local high school, and Alecia takes care of their 5-year-old autistic son, Gabe. But underneath the surface, all that glitters isn’t gold. Alecia endures the daily emotional and physical bumps that come with taking care of a special needs child while Nate basks in the adoration of a town that loves him. It seems as if a thousand blackbirds falling to their deaths on the baseball field might have been a bad omen, because soon after that strange event, Nate is accused of having an affair with 18-year-old senior Lucia Hamm, of the wild, white hair and the red, red lips, and the fractures in his marriage begin to show. He insists the girl is in trouble and he was trying to help, but Alecia isn’t so sure, and the town quickly, shockingly, turns against him, immediately assuming the worst. When Lucia goes missing, all hell breaks loose. The narrative is told from the viewpoints of Nate, Alecia, Lucia, and Bridget Peterson, a fellow teacher who's a friend of the Winters' and who is one of the few who believes Nate is innocent and finds evidence that Lucia could have been the victim of an assault. Moretti explores the fierce cruelty of teenagers (they frequently call Lucia a witch) as well as the complex bonds of friendship and marriage, and she sets it all against the desperation of a dying small town. Though Moretti’s emotionally astute tale can be heart-rending, readers won’t be able to look away. As slow, creeping dread sets in, so does the inevitability of the terrible situation the town finds itself in, offering a deliciously sinister glimpse into the duplicity of small-town lives and the ease with which people turn on each other when tragedy comes calling.

Moretti’s tale of jealousy and obsession is nothing less than dark magic. Witchery indeed.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1845-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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