A meticulously observed, immensely satisfying finale.

GLORIA

The West Virginia-born Maillard (now a resident of Vancouver) wraps up a trilogy (Light in the Company of Women, 1994; Hazard Zones, 1996) with the kind of big, stubbornly old-fashioned narrative that was a publisher’s bread-and-butter in the 1940s and ’50s.

Set in 1957 in Raysburg, West Virginia, the narrative follows 21-year-old Gloria, daughter of steel-company executive Ted Cotter and his society-matron wife Laney. On the surface, Gloria is a product of her indulged upbringing: prom queen, fashion plate, and country-club deb. But just as the heady swim of martinis, pool parties, and golf matches barely conceals the class divisions and sexual ambiguities underneath, so, too, Gloria is not quite what she seems. The party girl exterior masks a determined, ambitious intellect. Encouraged by her college advisor, Gloria has been accepted for graduate study in English at Columbia, an achievement not met with wholehearted approval by her family. Over the summer, Gloria must wrestle with the question of what kind of woman she wants to be. Does she marry her beau, a handsome, unimaginative frat boy? Or does she immerse herself in a serious study of poets like Eliot, Pound, and Auden? Her final decision isn’t nearly as important as the journey she takes to get there. Neither is it as obvious as it might appear: Maillard makes us see the attraction of both worlds, as well as the alcoholism, infidelity, and misogyny that belie the outward complacency of the period. Gloria battles with her mother, reevaluates her formerly close relationship with her father and, in the story’s only unconvincing lapse into melodrama, fends off the crude predations of one of her father’s colleagues. In this long, leisurely (and occasionally meandering) novel, which contains not a trace of PoMo irony, Maillard does a remarkable job of examining his characters and their place in 1950s suburban American with a breadth and depth that, at its best, recalls Balzac or George Eliot.

A meticulously observed, immensely satisfying finale.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-56947-206-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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