A fast-talking, passionate view of a seedy world of lies, corruption, and sexual intrigue.


Bring on the Phantoms

King’s sultry tale twists through the labyrinth of Manhattan’s secretive cabarets and haunts.

King (Writing in Motion: Body—Language—Technology, 2003) tells a story of New York City politics mired in sexual secrets and greed discovered by Paul Russo, a journalist-turned–administrative assistant who’s hoping to be a novelist. Margarita LaLouche is the femme fatale, “a foxy, gorgeous transsexual performer.” The novel of government corruption ebbs and flows when truth is discovered and is then obscured by another secret. Paul’s source tells him, “writers are supposed to reveal what’s hidden and concealed—the electricity of the word, it’s the same principle—and even though we work in the Governor’s office, think how much is hidden, and perhaps hidden from him.” A fascinating, macabre chapter about an exhibit of grotesque human oddities at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia highlights King’s ability to construct a spooky landscape. King also writes evocatively about the S&M-performance scene in New York City, as in this description of an event at Performance Space 122: “The dancers moved with tremendous energy, punctuating their moves, off-kilter balances and virtuosic coordination of limbs with sharp bursts of knife-like precision whose shapes and intricate weaves seemed to make LaLouche’s singing uncannily palpable.” The novel’s primary weaknesses are a tendency toward wordiness and tangential plot developments. In addition, the involvement of government officials in such scandalous society demands considerable suspension of disbelief. Other plot points, however, are believable and at times humorous and beautiful, and LaLouche enhances every scene she’s in. This is an engrossing book, twisting and turning in every way possible—linguistically, sexually, and narratively.

A fast-talking, passionate view of a seedy world of lies, corruption, and sexual intrigue.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2014


Page Count: 224

Publisher: Club Lighthouse Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

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


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. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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