Remarkably well-paced and well-written, this novel ends with an existentially astute finale. Don’t expect to be able to set...

THE GLOAMING

A propulsive literary thriller toggles between Switzerland and Tanzania.

In a concise, elegant seven paragraphs, Finn (Shame, 2015) opens her second novel with the intimations of an affair. The narrator, Pilgrim Jones, has discovered that her husband, a globally influential human rights lawyer, has abandoned her, and his deception sets up a lethal incident. Pilgrim awakens in a Swiss hospital, having smashed her car into a village bus stop, killing three children. For reasons that only gradually come into focus, she decamps for Tanzania, where the bush is “a tangled, knitted green stretching over the earth, a hot wool itching with insects, snakes, and birds.” Finn, who writes with a psychological acuity that rivals Patricia Highsmith’s, switches between Europe and Africa in tense alternating chapters, rewarding close attention. The book is terrific on diplomatic detail and police craft, the murkiness of human motivation and the pervasiveness of corruption. The parallels on both continents are subtle and thrilling. The Swiss investigator of Pilgrim’s car crash, preparing to face the dead children’s families, lets the rain pummel him: “It was better if he looked wet and bedraggled; his sympathy would appear more authentic.” Finn, who grew up partially in Kenya, writes supplely about Africans and the whites who move among them. The novel travels 175 pages in Pilgrim’s voice, then switches into third-person segments centered on each of five characters who’ve crossed her path: the Swiss police inspector, a tiny Tanzanian doctor, a Midwestern American bent on starting an AIDS orphanage, a Ukrainian mercenary, and a drunken white ne’er-do-well. Each has been altered by atrocity, a quality that Finn imbues with familiarity. “Tom would say to me that violence becomes an identity,” Pilgrim thinks, “how people see themselves in the world, and to ask them to stop being violent is asking them to erase themselves.”

Remarkably well-paced and well-written, this novel ends with an existentially astute finale. Don’t expect to be able to set this book down or forget its haunted characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937512-47-7

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 42

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more