A somewhat unfocused lesson on the diverging paths that life can take.

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Always Beside

An ill-fated romance inspires a young man’s meditations on society, politics, and religion in this novel.

Florian, a newly minted lawyer, and his girlfriend, Oblina, a college student, meet for a drink. The young man is eager to embark on the next phase of his life, and he plans to settle down with Oblina and pursue a career with a prestigious firm in a foreign city. But Oblina unceremoniously dumps him, announcing, “I really want you to go away.” The breakup alters the course of Florian’s life; shaken by the change in his circumstances, he fails to show up for the first day of his new job, much to the consternation of his father. Instead, he decides to write a book for all the “superficial, stupid” people in which he will “try to put everything right, to point at their mistakes, to show them the solutions using the right examples.” The remainder of the book alternates between Florian’s and Oblina’s lives, with excerpts from the former’s book in progress. Both of their stories end in tragedy, although Oblina seems positioned for even more misery at the book’s end, while Florian has “surmounted the top” of a literal mountain and seems poised to tackle even greater challenges ahead. That’s not surprising, given the way Grand consistently emphasizes the differences between the young man and his ex-girlfriend. Oblina is said to have “limited mental abilities,” and is portrayed as a promiscuous, lower-middle-class gold digger, while Florian is shown to be an intelligent member of the upper class. In one of the novel’s more disturbing passages, Oblina picks up a guy in a bar who rapes her, and both the sexual assault and her subsequent pregnancy appear to be presented as just punishment for her rejection of Florian. The novel’s attempts at social commentary also fall flat. That said, the novel has some evocative details (“The wind drove autumn leaves along the moonlit pavement”) and clever observations (“Heaven seemed to be sort of a library to her from which you could borrow books on only one boring subject”).

A somewhat unfocused lesson on the diverging paths that life can take. 

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5172-0250-7

Page Count: 328

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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