A sequel that will provide utterly different but equally rewarding experiences for readers who have and haven’t read its...

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THE GLASS OF TIME

Cox’s second pastiche of Victorian sensational fiction is doubly remarkable for its sure grasp of the genre’s idiom and its strange relationship to his first (The Meaning of Night, 2006).

Nineteen-year-old Esperanza Gorst arrives at Evenwood on September 4, 1876, to interview for the position of personal maid to Emily Duport, the widowed Baroness Tansor. The advertisement in which Esperanza announced her search for such a post constitutes the first of many deceptions Cox’s characters practice on each other, for it was placed not by her, but by her Parisian guardian, Madame de l’Orme, and her old friend Basil Thornhaugh, Esperanza’s tutor. Their successful attempt to insinuate Esperanza into Lady Tansor’s service is only the first step in what they call “the Great Task,” a plot so deep-laid that they can disclose its terms to her only over a period of months. Esperanza, whom everyone recognizes as far too cultured and perceptive to be a lady’s maid, soon catches the eyes of both Tansor sons, the Byronic heir Perseus and his more easygoing brother Randolph, and cultivates an ever more intimate relationship with Lady Tansor, still mourning her fiancé Phoebus Daunt, a bombastic poet who was murdered by his estranged Eton friend Edward Glyver more than 20 years ago. All the while she burns with curiosity to know the reason her protectors have sent her into this haunted household. But readers who recognize Daunt, Glyver et al. will be far ahead of Esperanza, who doesn’t realize that her author has pressed the plot of The Meaning of Night into service as the backstory of what would otherwise be a mystery in the mold of Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

A sequel that will provide utterly different but equally rewarding experiences for readers who have and haven’t read its equally leisurely predecessor.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-393-06773-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2008

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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