A didactic dystopian tale that lacks self-awareness.

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CAREFUL MEASUREMENTS

An experimental community forms a society from scratch in this speculative political novel.

The rules of Microcosm are simple: Its 30,000 residents decide for themselves how to live. There’s no set government; every person has equal resources and opportunities, and they can use them as they see fit: “No longer could people complain that they’d had an unfair disadvantage—people would either sink or swim by their own abilities and decisions, or lack thereof.” This doesn’t work well for everyone, but it seems to work fine for 45-year-old Patton Larsen, who lost his wife and three kids in a car accident and came to Microcosm—or Blue Creek, as the community later comes to be known—to hide away from the world. However, when the lack of laws leads to anxiety and instability, there’s pressure to form a government, though the more libertarian-minded residents, like Patton, vehemently oppose the notion. People tell him that he’s just being paranoid, and eventually, he concedes to working with his neighbors to form the best (and smallest) government possible. Even so, three citizens who rise to power—Charlie Henry, David Asher, and Anna Radinski—quickly implement dictatorial policies that are characterized as socialist. Patton and a small group of like-minded citizens resist the machinations of these would-be tyrants and work to guarantee the liberties of the people of Blue Creek—even if the price is blood. Debut author Hansen offers an intriguing premise in this novel. However, unlike the researchers running the experiment, he’s no impartial observer to the events that he describes; he acknowledges his own disdain for progressivism in his introduction, and the book has a clear and intended libertarian bent throughout. In the end, however, Hansen curiously undercuts his own argument, as the libertarian Utopia of Microcosm is revealed to be structurally unsound, and it falls quickly into a state of instability that, in turn, gives rise to a new regime. The characters are also disappointingly one-dimensional, and Patton, in particular, seems almost like a parody of self-righteous American masculinity.

A didactic dystopian tale that lacks self-awareness.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4808-6058-2

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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