This is a colorful, ambitious first outing that recalls Dylan Thomas’ comment on Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds: “Just...

THE GLORIOUS HERESIES

Drink, drugs, and religion are the familiar demons hounding young and old in Cork City, Ireland, where an accidental murder darkens several lives in this vibrant debut.

When Maureen kills an intruder in her home, her gangster son, Jimmy, hires an old buddy named Tony to help dispose of the corpse. The victim, a drug addict named Robbie, had been living with a prostitute named Georgie, who worked in the building where Maureen lives when it was a brothel and who makes a drug buy through local madam Tara. That’s how Georgie comes to know the young dealer Ryan, Tony’s son, who one day succumbs to Tara’s charms, as she lives next door and he is seeking respite from his father’s violence. As the narrative meanders across some five years in a depressed economy that forces many to choose “between the airport and the dole queue,” fate treats few of these players kindly. Ryan does jail time, Tony and Georgie try rehab, and two unplanned pregnancies emerge. Jimmy’s concern that his mother’s homicide will be revealed by Tony, Tara, or Georgie produces a rising tension that leads to more than one ending and two awkward flashbacks. Amid an exceptional cast, Ryan has too many facets and doesn’t quite gel, as victim or rising hood. The three main women are all well-drawn figures, with Maureen a real standout amid so much dependency, a refreshing maverick full of scathing comments on religion and hypocrisy. There’s other challenging language here, be warned, both obscenity and slang, which might be harsh or unwelcome to some ears but also, like the Irish English McInerney composes, possesses its own enticing music.

This is a colorful, ambitious first outing that recalls Dylan Thomas’ comment on Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds: “Just the book to give your sister, if she is a dirty, boozey girl.”

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8041-8906-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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