Overdecorated and underplotted. Not up to Montero’s usual standard.

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THE RED OF HIS SHADOW

The lush exoticism and sinister supernaturalism of the culture of voudou are evoked in rapturous detail in this unusual novel, the fourth in English translation from the Cuban-born Puerto Rican author (The Last Night I Spent with You, 2000, etc.).

Unfortunately, it is also redundant and sluggishly paced, despite numerous dramatic foreshadowings of a confrontation between voudou priestess Zulé Revé, one of thousands of Haitians who’ve crossed borders to work on the Dominican Republic’s many sugar plantations, and her sworn enemy (and former lover) rival houngan (voudou priest) Similá Bolosse. Montero re-creates Zulé’s world with impressive (and obviously painstakingly researched) thoroughness (an appended glossary is really very helpful), layering in mythlike accounts of Zulé’s birth, her seven-year apprenticeship in a religion that blends her culture’s traditional beliefs with the principles of formal Christianity, marriage to her mentor, the houngan Papa Coridon, and her bizarre relationship with his (half-Chinese) voyeuristic son Jérémie Candé, who acts as Zulé’s “aide and bodyguard,” while passively adoring her. The story’s principal organizing device is the Gaga, a religious ritual that’s part carnival, part pilgrimage—which also dovetails into Zulé’s dangerous trek into the heartland where Similá and his murderous tonton macoutes (Haitian military police) hold sway, an Orphean journey undertaken to retrieve a wife lured away from her grieving husband. Haunting particulars effectively underscore the tale’s essential strangeness: enigmatic references to “the smoking phallus of death”; “a plague of rabid mongooses”; and the menacing figure of Baron Samedi, the traditional Haitian guardian of the souls of the dead. And Montero outdoes herself in conjuring up both the “shadow” and the reality of Similá Bolosse: equal parts man, bull, and devil; reputed to possess “three balls” and practice cannibalism; who prepares himself for battle by bathing in the blood of one hundred slaughtered goats. Alas, it’s all atmospherics; and the final showdown between Zulé and Similá is both sketchy and anticlimactic.

Overdecorated and underplotted. Not up to Montero’s usual standard.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-621059-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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This riveting Gothic thriller explores the limits of love, guilt, and punishment.

THE SHAPE OF NIGHT

Running away from the memory of a New Year’s Eve party gone terribly wrong, food writer Ava Collette escapes Boston for a remote Maine village only to face a haunted house and a murder investigation.

Bestselling author of the Rizzoli & Isles series, Gerritsen (I Know a Secret, 2017, etc.) returns with a spellbinding thriller. The focus stays tightly on the experience of the potential victim, Ava, which enables Gerritsen to spin a tight web. Entangled in her own guilt, Ava isolates herself further and further, avoiding calls from her sister and living alone in the ominous Brodie’s Watch mansion, named for its builder, a shipping master lost to sea more than a hundred years ago. Although Brodie’s Watch initially frightens Ava, the moment she steps over the threshold, she feels inexplicably welcomed. Indeed, she is most welcome, as the shadows in her bedroom coalesce into the shape of a man, a man who may well be the ghost of Capt. Brodie. He stalks the house most nights, seducing Ava into not only the passions of love, but also atonement through punishment meted out for her sins. And so Gerritsen shifts a murder mystery into a Gothic thriller, replete with an unsteady widow’s walk, secret alcove, strange smells, ominous sensations, and the ghost. Even the prologue echoes the dream of Manderley from Du Maurier’s Rebecca. But then a dead body washes ashore, and the police investigation suggests the dead woman was killed before she hit the water. Fearful that her spectral lover may be a real-life murderer, Ava inquires about Charlotte Nielson, the young woman who rented Brodie’s Watch before her and left in an inexplicable hurry. But Ava’s investigation uncovers a disturbing list of dead women, which the townspeople seem to have spackled over. Who are they protecting?

This riveting Gothic thriller explores the limits of love, guilt, and punishment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2095-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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