An often engaging tale of a confining society, rendered with love.

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Tristan Bay Accord

A TALE OF FENRIA

In Newell’s (The Fisherman and the Sperm Thief, 2016, etc.) second Fenria sci-fi novel, a woman tries to legally establish her own clan.

On the planet Fenria, matriarchal rule has created a culture in which most men rove the sea as fishermen or patrolling Seaguards, and women maintain highly ordered clans. Annon Noahee is the sister of Teakh, a Seaguardsman whose sperm was stolen for breeding purposes. Both siblings are nearly 24 years old and belong to Clan Ralko as wards of their conniving Aunt Dyse. Annon, however, wants to become the grandmatriarch of her own clan and establish equal ruling rights between men and women. Fenrian society has fewer males than females, and Teakh’s desirability as a monogamous mate has ironically pushed him into stud work. When Annon makes a deal with Queen Fenna that will allow her to fulfill her dreams of forming Clan Noahee and going to law school, there’s one caveat—Annon must bear the children of an anonymous male of the queen’s choosing. Annon, in turn, insists that natural insemination take place so that nobody’s stolen sperm—particularly a relative’s—can be used. What Annon doesn’t foresee, though, is that her anonymous donor hopes to change Fenrian society as much as she does. On this second trip to Fenria, author Newell revisits Teakh’s adventure in The Fisherman and the Sperm Thief, this time from Annon’s perspective. Once again, commentary on modern life in Western cultures is central to the narrative, most notably in passages that illustrate that matriarchies can be just as extreme as patriarchies. For example, when Annon proposes a clan run with a code of equality, she’s told that “It would destroy—yes, destroy—our most sacred institutions. Motherhood is under attack.” Newell also builds a tantalizing eroticism into Annon’s struggle; in one sex scene, for example, Annon “recognized experience when I saw it—no, when I felt it.” In the tale’s second half, though, the pace slows under the weight of the characters’ legal maneuverings, and readers may find themselves rooting for the coolly smart Annon to end an argument by simply slapping someone.

An often engaging tale of a confining society, rendered with love.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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