Haunting and lyrical, understated and true.


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


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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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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