Obviously written from personal experience, but though the author may perceive the beauty inherent in Africa's people and...

READ REVIEW

THE ROAD BUILDER

A labored debut from Hershenow, a former Peace Corps volunteer in 1980s Zaire, offers a prolonged saga of palm-oil harvesting and existential mystery in Africa.

Freighted with tinny philosophical dialogue, the story begins as Will and Kate—both somewhere in their 30s, both vaguely drifting in life—are summoned to San Francisco to attend their supposedly dying Uncle Pers. He hangs tough and fails to die, then persuades Will and Kate to venture to Africa and enter into palm-oil manufacture. Apparently Pers wants to offer work to his frustrated niece and her husband, and he also needs some research done for the memoir he's writing about his time in Africa harvesting palm oil some 30 years before. Many meditations on both the usefulness and the irrelevancy of the past follow. Landing in Africa and arriving at the processing plant, Kate and Will are faced with a "medieval allegory of Hell, the oldest terrors fused with industrial technology but still relying on elemental and primitive forces and devices—steam and fire, grinding iron, boiling oil." With the help of some thinly evoked secondary characters, they fit right in and set to work. As it happens, the locals are treated shabbily by the overseeing company, and Kate and Will engage in a bit of illicit smuggling. They hear a good deal about the Road Builder, a near-mythic figure from the village's past with quixotic ambitions and opaque purposes who turns out to be (of course) Uncle Pers. After faking his death in San Francisco, Pers, now named Boris, returns to settle the mysteries and finish the Road Builder's work. All of which sounds interesting enough, and it might be if there were any exciting incidents or full-fledged characters to enliven this 400+-page slog.

Obviously written from personal experience, but though the author may perceive the beauty inherent in Africa's people and industries, he fails to convey it to the reader.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14754-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: BlueHen/Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more