Well-written historical fiction stuffed with action and adventure.

CIBOLERO

In Lopez’s novel, a father’s search for his abducted daughter toggles back to his own past and the larger picture of the exploitation of New Mexico in the mid-19th century.

Antonio Jose Baca wishes only to raise his family in peace on his ranchito near the Pecos River in New Mexico. A ragtag detachment of Texas Rangers shows up, hungry and lost, and in the space of an hour, they have roughed up his wife, shot their young son (he survives), kidnapped their daughter, Elena, and high-tailed it back to Texas. Antonio, of course, sets out after them. He does have an advantage. In his youth, he was a cibolero, a buffalo hunter, on those forbidding plains still called the Llano Estacado. He is an expert tracker, and his blood is up. In a series of flashbacks, we learn the geography of the area and its history that goes back centuries. We learn how the Civil War would affect things and how the rise of Texas threatened the nuevomexicanos from the beginning (“So far from God…and so close to Texas”). After 1848, the U.S. claims New Mexico, and immigrants—gringos—come pouring in. Suddenly, the nuevomexicanos and Indigenous people are second-class citizens and displaced on their own land, and the arrogant gringo soldiers are deservedly hated. Revolts are mounted but inevitably and brutally put down. We follow Antonio until the end of his quest.

Lopez is an authority on New Mexican history and topography, and his novel rings true throughout. He is also a very talented writer with nary a false step (“To the Tejanos the llano is a useless desert, Antonio thought. To the Indians and Ciboleros, it is a world filled with life”). Antonio is well drawn, and Lopez is even better with his villains. Those Texas Rangers differ from an outlaw gang only because their leader, Capt. Travis Russell, has a conscience. The others range from simpletons to the truly psychopathic, especially one J.D. Calhoun, scion of Texas money. Again one thinks of arrogance, a defining and infuriating trait of these interlopers—the Texas gang, Gen. Stephen Kearny who rubbed the nuevomexicanos’ noses in the American takeover, the drunken, murderous troopers, the condescension of Kit Carson and Charles Bent. (One can’t help but cheer when Bent’s head is paraded around Taos on a pikestaff.) Especially satisfying is the way the Ranger contingent is thoroughly spooked when two of the young troopers run into serious trouble. They assume the feared Comanche are to blame. Antonio is the relentless avenger, particularly deadly, and one feels the noose tightening. There are all sorts of side stories here, too, each a little nugget, and small episodes, like the murder of Nathan, a Black man, and Antonio’s efforts to rescue his orphaned children. And keep your eye on Josiah Smith, “the preacher.” There are nasty surprises and, oddly, some sweet interludes.

Well-written historical fiction stuffed with action and adventure.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-59-543567-8

Page Count: 182

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU

Two erudite Irishwomen struggle with romance against the backdrop of the Trump/Brexit years.

Eileen and Alice have been friends since their university days. Now in their late 20s, Eileen works as an editorial assistant at a literary magazine in Dublin. Alice is a famous novelist recovering from a psychiatric hospitalization and staying in a large empty rectory on the west coast of Ireland. Since Alice’s breakdown, the two have kept in touch primarily through lengthy emails that alternate between recounting their romantic lives and working through their angst about the current social and political climate. (In one of these letters, Eileen laments that the introduction of plastic has ruined humanity’s aesthetic calibration and in the next paragraph, she’s eager to know if Alice is sleeping with the new man she’s met.) Eileen has spent many years entangled in an occasionally intimate friendship with her teenage crush, a slightly older man named Simon who is a devout Catholic and who works in the Irish Parliament as an assistant. As Eileen and Simon’s relationship becomes more complicated, Alice meets Felix, a warehouse worker who is unsure what to make of her fame and aloofness. In many ways, this book, a work of both philosophy and romantic tragicomedy about the ways people love and hurt one another, is exactly the type of book one would expect Rooney to write out of the political environment of the past few years. But just because the novel is so characteristic of Rooney doesn’t take anything away from its considerable power. As Alice herself puts it, “Humanity on the cusp of extinction [and] here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for?”

A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60260-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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