A captivating tale.

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THE VIETRI PROJECT

A mysterious man becomes the object of a young woman's quest.

As the newest hire at a Berkeley bookshop, Gabriele is assigned to what the staff calls “the Vietri Project,” fulfilling orders from one Giordano Vietri, in Rome. Over the course of two and a half years, sending him more than 1,000 books on assorted esoteric topics—including mysticism, Native American medicine, shamanism, animism, and alchemy— Gabriele construes an image of Vietri as “an old man alone in a crumbling Roman apartment building, surrounded by hundreds of books not in his native language, frantically researching his own mortality.” Making an accomplished literary debut, notable for its delicate prose and sharply delineated characters, DeRobertis-Theye enmeshes Gabriele in her own frantic search, impelled, at first, by her curiosity about Vietri and the wisdom she imagines he may impart to her. An only child whose mother has been long institutionalized with schizophrenia, Gabriele, on the cusp of turning 25, decides to leave her job, the boyfriend who hopes to marry her, and a life that has become claustrophobic and aimless. Desultory travels finally end in Rome, where her mother was born, where Gabriele had spent summers as a teenager, and where she tries—but fails—to find Vietri at his apartment. Fearful of being caught in the “traumas and histories” of her many Italian relatives, at first she devotes herself solely to investigating Vietri and, as she discovers records and documents, becomes drawn into a larger trauma: Italy’s wartime past. DeRobertis-Theye unfolds Gabriele’s quest like a mystery, revealing clues both to Vietri’s life and Gabriele’s: her fear of inheriting schizophrenia, her overwhelming feelings of grief, her conflicted longing for family, and her obsession with Vietri. “Usually,” a friend tells her, “it’s that you need something about the world explained to you. You want to understand the order of things and you think that if you trace the life of this man it will do that for you.”

A captivating tale.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-301770-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

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ANXIOUS PEOPLE

Eight people become unlikely friends during a hostage situation created by an inept bank robber.

In a town in Sweden, a desperate parent turns to bank robbery to help pay the rent. Unfortunately, the target turns out to be a cashless bank, which means that no robbery can take place. In an attempt to flee the police, the would-be perpetrator runs into a nearby apartment building and interrupts an open house, causing the would-be buyers to assume they're being held hostage. After the situation has ended with an absent bank robber and blood on the carpet, a father-and-son police pair work through maddening interviews with the witnesses: the ridiculous realtor; an older couple who renovates and sells apartments in an effort to stay busy; a bickering young couple expecting their first child; a well-off woman interested only in the view from the balcony of a significant bridge in her life; an elderly woman missing her husband as New Year’s Eve approaches; and, absurdly, an actor dressed as a rabbit hired to disrupt the showing and drive down the apartment price. Backman’s latest novel focuses on how a shared event can change the course of multiple people’s lives even in times of deep and ongoing anxiousness. The observer/narrator is winding and given to tangents and, in early moments, might distract a bit too much from the strongly drawn characters. But the story gains energy and sureness as it develops, resulting in moments of insight and connection between its numerous amiable characters.

A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6083-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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