A grounded urban tale that’s enhanced but not dominated by touches of otherworldliness.


The Poe Consequence

Members of two rival LA gangs fall victim to mysterious heart attacks—all at the exact same time of day—in first-time novelist Steinbaum’s supernatural thriller.

Warren Palmer was an innocent bystander in the war between the Alvarado Street Diablos and the North Rampart Lobos, killed in a drive-by shooting while protecting his 11-year-old son, Seth. Then members from both gangs start croaking from apparent heart failure. Cops are baffled when they eventually spot a pattern: any gangster who’s committed murder is dead the next day at 4 a.m. sharp, with a heart that’s ice cold. Police convince the gangs to stop their fighting, but Lobo Miguel “King” Ruiz’s vendetta against Diablo Alejandro “Face” Torres may once again put Seth, along with his reporter uncle (and Warren’s twin brother) Kevin, in danger. Steinbaum’s novel certainly doesn’t shy away from supernatural elements; for example, right before their hearts seize, doomed gangsters hear a whispering voice recite lines from Poe’s stories. These scenes are a bit repetitive, since narrative backgrounds for several members start to feel like precursors to their inevitable deaths. But Steinbaum wisely focuses his story on the real-world repercussions of Warren’s murder. Seth, for one, develops animosity for all Mexicans but may have a change of heart once befriended and helped by genial Mexican-American tutor Veronica, who doubles as a love interest for struggling alcoholic Kevin. Similarly, Face is a sympathetic Diablo tormented by the knowledge that one of the men who raped his sister is still running free; he also has the gift of foresight, which ultimately proves beneficial. Things really pick up once Kevin links the manner of death to Poe passages (Warren was an avid fan of the author’s works) and seeks the fortuneteller his brother saw, the one who predicted his demise. Sure, there may be a ghost somewhere in the mix, but Steinbaum tells a story that intelligently and respectfully addresses issues of race and violence.

A grounded urban tale that’s enhanced but not dominated by touches of otherworldliness.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-942296-05-8

Page Count: 340

Publisher: LitFire Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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