THE LAST EQUATION OF ISAAC SEVERY

The eloquence of the language transcends—and almost redeems—the plot’s gimmickry in this remarkable debut.

A celebrated mathematician leaves a legacy of inexactitude to his confused progeny.

Isaac Severy, the elderly patriarch of a numerically gifted clan, predicts his own demise and awaits his executioner one morning in his Hollywood Hills backyard. After his death, his granddaughter Hazel receives a letter from him containing clues to the equation that is his life’s masterwork and also a prediction: “Three will die. I am the first.” Only Hazel and, as will be revealed later, her brother, Gregory, have been selected by Isaac to fulfill his mathematical designs, although they are not blood relations but foster children taken in by Isaac's black-sheep son, Tom, and adopted by Isaac after Tom’s imprisonment. Hazel is a failed Seattle bookseller, Gregory a not particularly diligent LAPD detective. These two nonmathematical Severys take turns with their uncle Philip, Isaac’s son, a particle physicist whose academic career has stalled, having chapters told from their perspectives. Romantic yearnings, of the illicit and/or near-incestuous variety, afflict all three. Several vividly sketched minor players vie for access to Isaac’s secret, not least his reclusive daughter, Paige, a probability theorist, and her son, Alex, an aspiring international man of mystery. Strangers are also circling. P. Booth Lyons, allegedly a government agent, has sent his persistent secretary, Nellie Stone, to stalk Philip around the campus of Caltech. A strange professor wants Hazel to meet him at the La Brea Tar Pits. The path to Isaac’s equation meanders through a hotel room numbered 137, a stubbornly password-protected computer, and a map of Los Angeles dotted with stickers noting dates and times. The second to die validates Isaac’s dire prophecy, lending urgency to the quest to decipher the stickers. In lovely, inventive prose, Jacobs re-engineers the tropes of family drama to explore age-old conundrums of destiny versus self-determination. However, the sheer number of characters and gambits threatens to overwhelm such a relatively short novel, as does the magnitude of its ambition.

The eloquence of the language transcends—and almost redeems—the plot’s gimmickry in this remarkable debut.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7512-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

NORMAL PEOPLE

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Categories:
Close Quickview