An often thrilling tale that expertly mixes fantasy and history.

CLOCHAN

In O’Brien’s historical novel, an Irishman can’t seem to escape chaos and strife, no matter where he goes.

Starting with the Irish Rebellion in 1798, this tale follows Kevin Neal as he grows up surrounded by political turmoil and talk of supernatural beings, including faeries and the Púca, a beastly warrior who he claims is real. One day, the 7-year-old protagonist and his female friend Anty discuss the area’s ongoing violence; soon afterward, Kevin loses his whole family in a military battle. He’s taken in by the Walsh family, consisting of father Nick, mother Judith, and two sons. After years of hardship, their land continues to keep them in debt. Nick is asked by the uncaring landlord to patch his roof, but he slips and falls, resulting in a permanent limp. Then the Walshes’ friend Joseph Kavanaugh is killed—one of the first in a string of mysterious, terribly violent murders. The family finds a new place to live, but the change of setting doesn’t save Kevin and his adopted family from misfortune, and conflicts between the Catholics and Protestants cause more trouble for them. One good thing comes of the move, though: Kevin is reunited with Anty, and as they grow older, romantic feelings blossom. But more violence is in store for Kevin and those closest to him. Soon, suspicions rise and people in town accuse Kevin of bringing the Púca, and all its evils, into their lives. Over the course of this novel, O’Brien’s realistic dialogue is its strongest attribute, occasionally using phonetic speech to get across each character’s vernacular, which allows each one to come alive on the page. The author combines this technique with phrasing that seems rather modern for the time period, but it allows for clear plot development through conversation; indeed, at times, some of these exchanges feel a bit too exposition-heavy. That said, O’Brien keeps the narrative pace steady, and it’s clear he’s done a significant amount of research into the politics and folklore of his story’s time and place, resulting in compelling worldbuilding throughout.

An often thrilling tale that expertly mixes fantasy and history.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77781-550-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: LOONCE

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2021

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A smart summer escape.

PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN

Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon novel is a bit of a throwback—in the best possible way.

One-time assassin and legendary spymaster Gabriel Allon has finally retired. After saying farewell to his friends and colleagues in Israel, he moves with his wife, Chiara, and their two young children to a piano nobile overlooking Venice’s Grand Canal. His plan is to return to the workshop where he learned to restore paintings as an employee—but only after he spends several weeks recovering from the bullet wound that left him dead for several minutes in The Cellist (2021). Of course, no one expects Gabriel to entirely withdraw from the field, and, sure enough, a call from his friend and occasional asset Julian Isherwood sends him racing around the globe on the trail of art forgers who are willing to kill to protect their extremely lucrative enterprise. Silva provides plenty of thrills and, as usual, offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of the outrageously wealthy. In the early books in this series, it was Gabriel’s work as an art restorer that set him apart from other action heroes, and his return to that world is the most rewarding part of this installment. It is true that, at this point in his storied career, Gabriel has become a nearly mythic figure. And Silva is counting on a lot of love—and willing suspension of disbelief—when Gabriel whips up four old master canvases that fool the world’s leading art experts as a lure for the syndicate selling fake paintings. That said, as Silva explains in an author’s note, the art market is rife with secrecy, subterfuge, and wishful thinking, in no small part because it is almost entirely unregulated. And, if anyone can crank out a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Gentileschi, and a Veronese in a matter of days, it’s Gabriel Allon. The author’s longtime fans may breathe a sigh of relief that this entry is relatively free of politics and the pandemic is nowhere in sight.

A smart summer escape.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-283485-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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