A macabre little Alpine horror story elevated by masterful storytelling and language.

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A DEVIL COMES TO TOWN

A remote village in Switzerland populated almost entirely with ambitious writers gets a surprise when the devil himself comes to visit.

In this very creepy novella, the award-winning Italian novelist Maurensig (Theory of Shadows, 2018, etc.) constructs a mystery with the structure of nesting dolls, folding story within story until it’s impossible to separate technique from narrative. In the outside shell of his story, Maurensig, presumably writing as himself, describes his role as “a pole of attraction for aspiring writers,” all hoping to earn the novelist’s authoritative opinion. One day, he runs across an anonymous novel called The Devil in the Drawer written by what he imagines is “a pale, blondish, aspiring writer rambling through the valleys of Switzerland.” The anonymous writer, whom Maurensig names Friedrich, describes traveling to a three-day literary conference in the hometown of Carl Jung. While taking a walk in the woods one morning, Friedrich runs across a rabid fox and a priest, Father Cornelius, who tells the young author a story about the devil coming to visit a village in rural Switzerland named Dichtersruhe: “I’m talking about the devil-made-man, flesh and blood like me and you.” Here we reach the heart of darkness as the devil introduces himself as Bernhard Fuchs, a publisher from Lucerne who plans to turn the town’s old mill into a publishing house and establish a literary prize, setting off a wave of madness among the town’s writers. By the time Maurensig puts a weapon into the priest’s hand, Chekhov’s maxim is in full effect. The language, translated by Appel (Snapshots, 2019, etc.), is both florid and fluid as you might imagine of Maurensig’s gifts. Whether it succeeds as a commentary on the writing life or the publishing industry probably depends on the reader, but regardless, Maurensig gives us a masterfully constructed gothic horror story designed to keep aspiring writers up at night.

A macabre little Alpine horror story elevated by masterful storytelling and language.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64286-013-9

Page Count: 120

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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