A meticulously observed, immensely satisfying finale.

READ REVIEW

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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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