A moody, hard-edged coming-of-age story that keeps the horrors coming until the very end.

LIES IN BONE

A teenage girl moves to her dad’s Pennsylvania hometown and confronts tragedies old and new in Symons’ debut novel.

Frances “Frank” Coolidge is almost 16 and still scarred by the fact that her mother left the family years earlier. Her single dad, Chuck, tells her and her little sister, Boots, that they’re all moving from Troy, New York, to live with their grandmother in the old steel town of Slippery Elm, Pennsylvania. Grandma Ruth has cancer and Chuck is afraid she might fall and hurt herself if left on her own. Frank also has an unshakeable sense of dread: “I sensed doom like a dog senses an impending earthquake.” Ruth is a cantankerous woman, Frank is bullied by kids at her new school, and Chuck staggers home drunk every night. But there’s something more serious hanging over everyone’s heads: It turns out that over 20 years before, Chuck’s brother, Danny, was killed when a poisonous cloud of smog hung over the town for four days, suffocating town residents, and there are rumors that Chuck was somehow involved with his sibling’s death. Sadly, other Slippery Elm locals come from troubled homes, and a little girl named Bernie starts regularly visiting the Coolidges. As Frank continues to worry, more secrets from the town’s past are revealed. Over the course of this novel, Symons shows that she’s unafraid to confront some of the gritty realities of old industrial towns in America. Her story starkly highlights Slippery Elm’s frightening characters, its rampant economic despair, and its tragic history, and it contrasts these sharply with the sweet kids at the heart of the narrative. Although it reads like a literary novel, the compelling plot features elements of a detective story, and the investigation is exciting to read. It’s skillfully written throughout, and the novel’s overall sense of sadness isn’t mitigated by its numerous strengths.

A moody, hard-edged coming-of-age story that keeps the horrors coming until the very end.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63337-509-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Boyle & Dalton

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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As one of Whitehead’s characters might say of their creator, When you’re hot, you’re hot.

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HARLEM SHUFFLE

After winning back-to-back Pulitzer Prizes for his previous two books, Whitehead lets fly with a typically crafty change-up: a crime novel set in mid-20th-century Harlem.

The twin triumphs of The Underground Railroad (2016) and The Nickel Boys (2019) may have led Whitehead’s fans to believe he would lean even harder on social justice themes in his next novel. But by now, it should be clear that this most eclectic of contemporary masters never repeats himself, and his new novel is as audacious, ingenious, and spellbinding as any of his previous period pieces. Its unlikely and appealing protagonist is Ray Carney, who, when the story begins in 1959, is expecting a second child with his wife, Elizabeth, while selling used furniture and appliances on Harlem’s storied, ever bustling 125th Street. Ray’s difficult childhood as a hoodlum’s son forced to all but raise himself makes him an exemplar of the self-made man to everybody but his upper-middle-class in-laws, aghast that their daughter and grandchildren live in a small apartment within earshot of the subway tracks. Try as he might, however, Ray can’t quite wrest free of his criminal roots. To help make ends meet as he struggles to grow his business, Ray takes covert trips downtown to sell lost or stolen jewelry, some of it coming through the dubious means of Ray’s ne’er-do-well cousin, Freddie, who’s been getting Ray into hot messes since they were kids. Freddie’s now involved in a scheme to rob the Hotel Theresa, the fabled “Waldorf of Harlem," and he wants his cousin to fence whatever he and his unsavory, volatile cohorts take in. This caper, which goes wrong in several perilous ways, is only the first in a series of strenuous tests of character and resources Ray endures from the back end of the 1950s to the Harlem riots of 1964. Throughout, readers will be captivated by a Dickensian array of colorful, idiosyncratic characters, from itchy-fingered gangsters to working-class women with a low threshold for male folly. What’s even more impressive is Whitehead’s densely layered, intricately woven rendering of New York City in the Kennedy era, a time filled with both the bright promise of greater economic opportunity and looming despair due to the growing heroin plague. It's a city in which, as one character observes, “everybody’s kicking back or kicking up. Unless you’re on top.”

As one of Whitehead’s characters might say of their creator, When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54513-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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