Hauntingly beautiful pieces that will leave deep impressions.

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TRACE

In this debut poetry collection, Figg kindles broken, dying embers into a roaring memorial for the voiceless.

“God save the devils, afflicted / and tumored. Speech stalled / in their cursed throats,” writes Figg in her deeply insightful collection’s first poem, “The Measure of Things.” From there, readers are led into a world of remnants; in one poem, for instance, the ashes of insane asylum residents are kept in long-forgotten canisters. Figg is adept at combining contrasting images; for example, in “Stitching a World,” the natural world intertwines with the highway, but it’s unexpectedly revealed how nature’s beauty—represented by kudzu blocking the sunlight—is deceptive. Throughout, the poems’ speakers share the pain of the forgotten and the damned. In “Interview With Sister,” a mentally ill woman interviews her sister, or perhaps she interviews herself; each line begins with the word “Sister,” as if the two are one. Figg gently scatters themes of loss, loneliness, and rejection throughout her poems, and these sharp shards sparkle. Take, for example, “Refuse,” a poem with an unsettling fireplace image in which “the birch / collapses into the fire’s belly.” That same poem also replaces birdsong with the shocking noise of birds hitting windows: “He mistakes / the sounds of their necks breaking / for visitors knocking.” There’s a fear of insignificance here, too; in “The Trace of Nothing,” a woman steps away from a wall and simply vanishes. Figg’s poetic timing is spot-on, and her lines, though often dark, remain powerfully musical. In “Once Was,” the sound of words melts into a bluesy moan of a woman “on the ground, the asphalt hot and soft / from the sun and slowly caving in to cover her edges and set her firm.” But there’s light here, as well, as in an image of goddesses who chew laurel leaves for prophecy, and Figg’s contemplative voice consistently casts a strong, soft glow.

Hauntingly beautiful pieces that will leave deep impressions.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89823-385-8

Page Count: 104

Publisher: New Rivers Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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

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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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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