A hoot and a half, and then some: hands down, the best island farce since Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle half a century ago.



Imagine Superman in Grand Fenwick and you’ll have some idea of Harkaway’s (Angelmaker, 2012, etc.) brilliantly imagined latest romp.

“It’s amazing being a superhero,” says Lester Ferris as the action winds down at the end of Harkaway’s latest. “It’s totally mad.” Ferris, aka the Sergeant, hasn’t been on Mancreu for long, but he’s lived 10 lifetimes there. Posted to a supposedly quiet patch of earth after long, soul-shattering duty in Afghanistan (“the Americans called it a Total Goatfuck”) and Iraq, he’s found himself on a spit of land out in the Arabian Sea that, thanks to climate change, is in danger of receding under the waves—but until that time is a convenient entrepôt for drug dealers, arms smugglers, pirates, spies, defectors, flimflam artists, multinational corporatists and all the usual suspects, not least of them numerous powers NATO and otherwise: “[V]arious interests,” writes Harkaway, “were making use of the lawless nature of the Mancreu waters for things they might not otherwise be able to do.” Mancreu’s hub is a cafe owned by a fine fellow named Shola, who’s mowed down by gunmen for no apparent reason. The Sergeant, aided—or perhaps not—by shadowy figures flying the stars and stripes and the tricolor, is at a loss until, visited of a night by a tiger, he takes on the superhero guise of the title, suggested to him by a comic-book–loving, lonely teenager helpfully named Robin. The ensuing showdown is full of in-jokes, knowing nods to the headlines and miscreant Belgians, which will please fans of Monty Python if not necessarily the good burghers of Antwerp. The cast of characters is straight out of a Milton Caniff cartoon, with names like Bad Jack, White Raoul and the Witch, but the burdens poor Mancreu has to bear, from land rape and gang war to toxic dumping and international intrigue, are thoroughly modern millstones.

A hoot and a half, and then some: hands down, the best island farce since Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle half a century ago.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-35241-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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


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.


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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