A readable, witty exercise in modernist urban erotica.

THE LAST GENTLE DENTIST

BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS

A police raid on the office of a San Francisco dentist sets in motion an erotic novel that offers plenty of laughing gas.

Dedicating this raunchy, picaresque tale “to women,” Pearl says “true events” inspired it. He opens with the line: “I was drawn to her like a rowdy boy to a silly girl on a sandy beach on a windy day.” That setup warns readers to expect hyperbole, and the book delivers generous amounts of it. The plot involves a hapless dentist whose San Francisco office is raided one day by “determined men in bulletproof vests,” who wave weapons and talk about massive-scale fraud. The narrator finds himself a wanted man and begins his odyssey through Europe and America, a fast-paced and often sexually explicit journey from one stranger’s bed, couch, bathroom and bungalow to the next. He attracts the attention not just of those bulletproof-vested men, but of the Russian underworld and an improbable number of voluptuous women. In the few calm moments in the book, he reflects on his life and recent past in a way that gives his tale the air of an elongated Chekhov story with overcharged credit cards and Vicodin. As the narrator falls in with two shady businessmen, Koshel and Shurkin, and the exotic dancer Anushka, the story moves along with verve and confidence that counterbalance its essentially ad hoc nature. The prose is lean and effective, and the terseness highlights Pearl’s talent for good lines. “I never actually fall asleep, just bob in and out of some oily porridge,” the narrator says. Elsewhere: “New York has no climate; it’s a carnage of moods.” The story has an ending rather than a conclusion—some readers may wish for less ambiguity—before it provides a helpful glossary of Russian-criminal slang.

A readable, witty exercise in modernist urban erotica.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2012

ISBN: 147765447X

Page Count: 202

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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