A lighthearted North Pole fantasy with some darker undertones.

READ REVIEW

FIVE EQUALS ONE, VOL. 1

Korte (A Girl Doesn't Need To Go To College, But…But…But…, 2014, etc.) offers a novel about a very different kind of Santa Claus.

This fast-paced, playful tale focuses on the North Pole Village and its most famous resident. This version of Santa is as kindly and cheerful as the folkloric one, but he’s also keeping a secret from the rest of the world: his ethnicity changes on a regular basis. His wife, Mitzi, constantly worries that this fact will be discovered and revealed; sometimes she wishes that it would, just so the tension of concealment would be gone. The secret bubbles beneath the surface of Korte’s book as multiple plots converge on the year’s Christmas Season Blessing Day ceremonies. It’s revealed that Mitzi has been married to Santa for nearly half a century, but before that, she grew up in an abusive household, which Korte vividly evokes in a series of well-deployed flashbacks. As a result, she has a cautious soul, a nagging inner voice of doubt she refers to as her “nattering Tomacita.” She embarks upon a series of unexpected adventures, away from Santa and her settled life, and these are the amusing and dramatic high points of the book. The author also makes easy reading out of Santa’s bewilderment back home (“Are you hiking across Siberia? Or maybe riding an elephant on some African safari? Did you join a commune somewhere in the States?”). Santa lives near Jingle-Jangle Mountain, which is known to Sleigh Valley High junior Hunter Swift Bear’s people as Mount Koyukon. But although Hunter has fond memories of his grandfather, who taught him his people’s ways, he’s more interested in North Pole High sophomore Shelly Jasselton. Korte adroitly balances their story against the Clauses’ main tale. The overall narrative has a disjointed but playful voice, with characters routinely using expressions such as “taffy tarnation,” “fiddling nutcrackers,” “sooty bricks,” or “shimmering icicles.” It ends with a low-key cliffhanger that will leave readers curious to move on to the next volume.

A lighthearted North Pole fantasy with some darker undertones.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more