A slow-burning debut that keenly dissects privilege, power, and the devastation of unfulfilled expectations.

THE PARTY UPSTAIRS

One day changes the lives of a working-class Manhattan father and daughter forever.

Martin, a longtime super in an Upper West Side apartment building, has been hearing the voice of a recently deceased tenant. Lily was Martin’s longtime friend and a pseudo-grandmother to Ruby, his 24-year-old daughter; Ghost Lily is now haunting Martin in both menial and meaningful ways. Ruby—who is newly single, unemployed, and deeply in debt—has just moved back in with her parents. Primarily set in the apartment building, the novel takes place over the course of one day. While Martin fields calls from tenants with innocuous and embarrassing requests, Ruby prepares for her interview for her dream job at the American Museum of Natural History—and a penthouse party that evening at her best friend Caroline’s apartment. When the interview (that Caroline has helped secure) is not what Ruby expected, she begins to recontextualize her childhood and lifelong friendship with Caroline. At one point Ruby compares their relationship to a diorama (her preferred art form): “Lovingly crafted, deeply illusory, a lifelike depiction of something already extinct.” Ruby grew up brushing shoulders with the wealthy and thus is less able to distinguish the class markers that separate them—an inability Martin cannot fathom or stomach. When a tenant asks him to dispose of a pigeon nest, Martin angrily remembers what he’s done in the past to keep this job and support Ruby: “He wanted to tell her there were some kinds of debt she didn’t even realize she owed, debts no dream job would pay back.” The strained father-daughter relationship eventually boils over, and Martin's and Ruby’s decisions set into motion a series of events that upend their lives forever. Conell’s debut perfectly captures the co-op’s ecosystem and the ways class informs every interaction, reaction, and relationship inside it. While the plot sometimes dips a little too far into the absurd, Conell’s writing remains cleareyed, darkly funny, and deeply empathetic.

A slow-burning debut that keenly dissects privilege, power, and the devastation of unfulfilled expectations.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984880-27-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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