A pleasant diversion and a perfectly sized puzzle for PBS Mystery! fans.

TIED UP WITH STRINGS

In this novel, an American part-time detective suspects foul play during her Christmas visit to check on her best friend’s daughter in the British village of Abbeyvayle.

Feeling a bit out of sorts after her long journey from California, Betty Grape arrives at the cottage of professor and Mrs. Braithwaite, where Catia Ann Titchell is housesitting for the vacationing couple while working on her dissertation on mold. From the start, when Catia greets her at the snow-covered doorstop wearing only a towel, the elderly woman feels the vague discomfort of something being askew. Once inside, Betty notes the furniture coated in dust and grime. She’s not one to mince words: “Betty dug a fingernail into the thick layer of scum on the arm of her chair. ‘There’s more than enough mold right here to keep you busy for months.’ ” Meanwhile, Catia is fuming over having been slighted by Paul Goodyear, one of two brothers living in a camper in the field across from the house. Then there is the problem of the missing cat, Marmalade, whose collar turns up at the door in a parcel tied with dirty garden twine. Next, an offstage death—possibly a murder—is added to the mystery. All the fixings are in place for a good, old-fashioned cozy, set in a quintessential British town complete with a pub where Betty gets to know the locals. The leisurely pace of this slim volume allows time for readers to absorb the flavor of Abbeyvayle while pondering just what it is that Betty will uncover. Albeit a bit curmudgeonly in her approach to the cultural differences between American and English lifestyles, Betty turns out to be an enjoyable character, feisty with a tender streak. The plot is not overly complicated, but it is ably propelled by dialogue rather than action. Readers who follow the bread crumbs McEwen (Spring Fever, 2016, etc.) scatters along the way will most likely be a step ahead of the protagonist except for a couple of final surprises.

A pleasant diversion and a perfectly sized puzzle for PBS Mystery! fans.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 85

Publisher: Imajin Qwickies

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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