A remarkable family tale that fully embraces its weirdness and ambiguity.


After encountering others with similar secrets, two siblings make a drastic, grim decision in this novel.

Yoshi lives with his sister, Saachi, and their mother, Henrietta. It’s not an easy existence, as Henrietta often has paper bags of “roogs” (drugs) and stays inside her room, dazed, for prolonged intervals. She also has a local reputation as a murderer due to her lethally shooting an aggressive gardener and his dog. It was unquestionably self-defense, but that hasn’t prevented a stigma shadowing the mother and her children. When Yoshi finds cryptic notes hidden in a library book, the messages direct him to a small group of individuals. They claim that Yoshi is one of them, as everyone in this gathering they call The Colony has parents who use and/or deal drugs. Regular meetings with The Colony and further concealed notes only seem to elevate Yoshi’s distrust, including of the vagrant Sikes, whom the boy is intent on helping. But even more telling is his new friends’ insistence on taking care of his “problem.” It soon becomes apparent to Yoshi and Saachi that getting rid of Henrietta may be their only option. Avery’s offbeat story is intentionally vague. For example, there’s no specific time period or setting, and the siblings sometimes converse in their own dialect. Nevertheless, the brother-sister relationship grounds the narrative; they may argue but their mutual compassion is unmistakable, even if it stems from an emotionally absent mother. Likewise, there’s a general unease, as motivations, including The Colony’s and Sikes’, aren’t immediately clear. But while the siblings’ language generates memorable slang that readers will enjoy, some inconsistent spellings make it unnecessarily confusing. (“Cabbu,” which seems to mean cash, is later “caboo”; “ledling,” which essentially means sleeping, is also “ladling.”) The events all lead to a twist ending that the author subtly hints at throughout the darkly bizarre novel.

A remarkable family tale that fully embraces its weirdness and ambiguity.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5439-9191-8

Page Count: 150

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2020

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Engaging and deftly paced, another thoughtfully entertaining summer read from Silva.

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A legendary spy takes a vacation—or tries to, anyway—in Silva’s 20th Gabriel Allon novel.

Gabriel is trying to enjoy some rest and relaxation with his family in Venice when he learns that an old friend has died. As it happens, this old friend was Pope Paul VII, and it’s not long before Allon is summoned by the pontiff’s personal secretary. Archbishop Luigi Donati has reason to believe that the Holy Father did not die a natural death. For each of the past several summers, Silva has delivered a thriller that seems to be ripped from the headlines. This latest book feels, at first, like something of a throwback. Palace intrigue at the Vatican might seem quaint compared to Islamist extremism or Russia’s rise as an international influence, but Silva makes it relevant and compelling. Allon discovers that the most likely culprits in the death of the pope are connected to far-right leaders throughout Europe, and the rediscovery of a lost Gospel sheds new light on Christian anti-Semitism. The villains here are Catholic traditionalists—Silva’s imaginary Paul VII looks a lot like the real-life Francis I—and “populist” politicians who appeal to nativist, anti-globalist sympathies. As Silva looks at European contempt for a new wave of immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, he finds a model for this xenophobia in ancient hatred of the Jewish people, an antipathy that has its roots in the New Testament. He interjects a few Bible studies lessons and offers a bit of history as background; these passages add depth without impeding the forward momentum of the plot. Readers familiar with this series may notice the evolution of a motif introduced a few novels ago: In the world of Gabriel Allon, the United States has receded from relevance on the world stage.

Engaging and deftly paced, another thoughtfully entertaining summer read from Silva.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-283484-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.


A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle.

Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend’s jaw. He’s done terrible things to her children, too—and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. “Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn’t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,” writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who’s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn’t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be “an ugly trial” that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: “What will your jury look like?” asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, “A regular posse. It’s rural north Mississippi, and I’ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.” The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end.

Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54596-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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