A devilishly crafted psychological thriller fusing mad science with desperate people in the grip of physical agony.

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PAINLESS

A man plagued by chronic pain turns to an experimental “miracle surgery.”

Thornley’s (The Rabbit, 2018) medical thriller taps into the hopelessness felt when physical pain becomes a psychological nightmare. For Greg Owens, getting out of bed is an arduous and excruciating daily challenge. Ever since he fell from a ladder during a roofing job seven years ago, back pain has been constant, contributing to a divorce, estrangement from his 3-year-old daughter, and diminished capacity as a construction foreman. When a radical experimental treatment at a remote clinic is suggested, Greg decides to investigate the promising possibilities at the facility rather than relying on questionable street drugs. The physician in charge of the trial is the nearly 60-year-old Dr. Dante Menta (fittingly named “Dr. D. Menta”), whose controversial pain-elimination therapy involves the injection of liquid nitrogen into the spinal column. His surgical techniques have incrementally graduated from animals of assorted sizes to the new human trials, which Greg and other patients, all in varying degrees of severe pain, are about to embark on. Once Greg becomes a patient, he is in good company with a ward full of other nosy subjects and a compassionate, motherly nurse named Roberta. She begins to suspect foul play when she discovers some of the treatment’s undesirable effects. Thornley, a software architect–turned-novelist, displays a knack for sustaining a simmering plot and really ratchets things up once the full grisly consequences of Menta’s seemingly foolproof experiment begin to emerge. The doctor’s transformation from creepily concerned advocate into mad-scientist mode with a zombified, pain-free patient roster to contend with is both horrifying and electrifying. Fans of uncomplicated medical thrillers will find much to savor here even if the author, a writer to watch, tends to lay on the graphic, gory details a bit thick. In the dog experiments, the animals run themselves into walls because they feel no pain and are delusional. Menta’s human patients begin pulling out their own fingernails, burning themselves, and gouging out their eyeballs.

A devilishly crafted psychological thriller fusing mad science with desperate people in the grip of physical agony.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-979851-20-6

Page Count: 282

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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