Haunting and lyrical, understated and true.

INTRUSION

A couple mourning the death of their teenage son in a freak accident confront past secrets while facing the uncertain future of their marriage in McCluskey’s debut.

Kat and Scott are struggling to navigate a world made brittle by grief. Kat, unable to cope with most day-to-day tasks, resents the way Scott, a corporate lawyer, buries himself in work to escape the pain. When she has to accompany him to an evening event, she's shocked to discover that his new client is a rich widow who used to be one of her own best friends. It’s been 20 years since Sarah Cherrington cut a swath through the conservative Catholic school where she met and dazzled young Kat; the two were inseparable, drawn to one another as misfits despite being complete opposites. But a dramatic falling out when they were in college broke up their friendship, and they haven’t communicated since. Sarah, once a poor orphan, has realized her greatest dream: she is extraordinarily wealthy, and her business acumen and ruthless demands to get what she wants make her a desirable but demanding client for Scott. Meanwhile, Sarah reaches out to Kat, offering her a second chance at motherhood through her connection to an adoption charity. When Scott denies Kat’s request to consider adopting, the fragile shell of their marriage begins to crack. This novel raises comparisons to Gone Girl and some of the other recent stories about characters who aren’t who they seem, but McCluskey’s beautiful prose elevates it above most of them. Her descriptions of both place and people are lush: "Kat woke early, as the sun was rising and the light changing from gray to gold....The gardens, with their fine morning mist, looked enchanted. She stood still for a while, breathing it all in, until she noticed that the patio doors were open and, as she watched, Sarah, in a cream-silk shirt and loose pants, came out." In contrast, the dialogue is simple and true. Above all, this is an exploration of the cost of grief and how it isolates even those who share the same loss. But McCluskey also suggests that everyone has the capacity to find the way through this lonely darkness and reach healing on the other side.

Haunting and lyrical, understated and true.

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-503-95306-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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

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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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