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A gripping, richly layered story of a woman’s unraveling as she grapples with threats both past and present.

In this haunting debut, a woman running from her past tries to find solitude and independence in the woods.

Laura Mantovani has spent several months living in a cabin in the mountains above an Italian village. There, she walks in the forest, reads, and tends to the small home she has fashioned for herself. Interactions with the locals are limited to brief errands and odd jobs, such as translations and tutoring, and though she is not accepted fully, she seems to command some level of respect from those she meets. This distance is threatened, however, when she takes a lover—a bartender who visits her at night and is eager to keep their relationship a secret. The secrecy suits Laura, who has secrets of her own she’d like to keep from the village; she’s hiding from an abusive and controlling husband. When a friend from her previous life appears at her door, Laura’s carefully constructed world begins to come apart. Wracked by illness and increasingly dependent on laudanum, she retreats into herself and the woods, unable to see the growing discontent the villagers have with the strange woman who appears increasingly unmoored. At under 200 pages, this tight novel doesn’t have much room for revelations to be overly drawn out, including a flashback to the days preceding Laura’s decision to run away from her marriage. Bromwich’s pacing works brilliantly; languid and slow as we meet Laura a few months into her time in the cabin, comfortable and familiar, before becoming increasingly disjointed and rapid to match her deteriorating mental state. Awkward interactions with locals give way to jarring and difficult exchanges in which Laura, from whose perspective the story is told, struggles to comprehend the growing animosity from even those with whom she was nominally friendly. The result is a slow-burning tension that never quite resolves into something like closure but is nonetheless riveting and original.

A gripping, richly layered story of a woman’s unraveling as she grapples with threats both past and present.

Pub Date: June 6, 2023

ISBN: 9781953387318

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

A one-eyed boy becomes a monster’s prey in this chilling tale of missing children.

Thirteen-year-old Missouri boy Joseph “Patch” Macauley was born with one eye, so he wears an eye patch and imagines himself a pirate. In 1975, he sees a masked man assaulting a girl in the woods. He attacks the man and saves her, but the predator kidnaps him instead. Patch eventually wakes in total darkness in a cellar where a different girl secretly visits him, heard but always unseen. He learns that her name is Grace and that there have been other girls down there before. Grace paints vivid word pictures of the places she’s seen and of stories by authors like Steinbeck. “Pray and stay alive,” she whispers to Patch. Eventually he escapes, but she is nowhere to be found. Searching for Grace is the underlying thread in a complicated quest that takes unexpected turns over the years and might well bring heartbreak. Meanwhile, the bodies of three girls turn up locally, and their parents grieve. Is the town doctor responsible for their deaths? A local school photographer? Both? Patch paints an image of Grace based only on what he’d heard from her in the cellar; then come more paintings and displays in an art gallery—an implausible achievement for an untrained artist. Meanwhile, Grace may be anywhere, and he must find her whether alive or dead. By now an adult, he “pinball[s]” from state to state, meeting with “a dozen families looking for a dozen lost girls.” To sustain himself he robs banks with an unloaded flintlock, and he shares his loot with organizations that are looking for missing children. He has “reasoned the truest proof of life [is] pain,” and he vows that he will die before he quits his search. This is much more than a whodunit, though it fills that bill well. It is also a richly layered tale of love, loss, and hope.

A grim theme with a compelling and complex plot.

Pub Date: June 25, 2024

ISBN: 9780593798874

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2024

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"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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