A propulsive and all-too-timely near-future thriller.

AFTERLAND

It’s been about three years since HCV, a fatal cancer-causing virus targeting men, began sweeping the world.

Now, in 2023, there's no cure in sight and reproduction has been made illegal to cut down on further infections in baby boys. Men and boys are hot commodities to both the interim government and other distinctly unsavory parties, but Cole isn’t about to surrender her 12-year-old son, Miles, who seems to be immune, to anyone. In fact, the only thing she cares about is getting home to Johannesburg, South Africa, but it won’t be easy. While in the U.S. visiting family, Cole’s husband, Devon, died, and Cole and Miles were herded into army quarantine, where Miles, under the auspices of the Male Protection Act, endured a seemingly endless series of tests. But Cole just wants to go home, and soon after they're moved to a new bunker, she and her sister, Billie, who reunited with Cole and Miles at the military base after a job as executive chef on a superyacht went south, hatch an escape plan. But the conniving Billie doesn’t have their best interests in mind, and Cole is forced to resort to violence. Now Cole and Miles, disguised as “Mila,” are on the run. Meanwhile, Billie, sporting a nasty head injury courtesy of a Cole-wielded tire iron, must find Miles and deliver him to the very bad women she works for or they’ll kill her. An already hellish road trip takes a strange turn when Miles and an exhausted Cole, seeking any kind of respite, join up with the nomadic nuns of the Church of All Sorrows, a cultish order that believes men will return if women would only repent for an endless litany of sins. Cole has a plan, but getting to the departure point alive will test her—and her relationship with her son—to the very limit. Miles and his mom form the beating heart of a harrowing tale that ably explores grief, motherhood, and gender roles, and Cole’s struggle to protect Miles as he grapples with coming-of-age in a radically altered world will resonate. Beukes is a gifted storyteller who makes it thrillingly easy for readers to fall under her spell as she weaves a hypnotic vision of a fractured world without men.

A propulsive and all-too-timely near-future thriller.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-26783-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A weird, wild ride.

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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