Lyrical and portentous—and sometimes even “dreary and threatening,” as Daragne describes the voice at the other end of the...


Claustrophobic, moody, none-more-noir novel by French Nobel Prize winner Modiano (Suspended Sentences, 2014, etc.).

Phone calls don’t happen often in Jean Daragne’s world. He’s sealed himself off in a Paris apartment, shutters drawn always, but especially now during an unusually strong heat wave that “emphasized his loneliness.” Still, he goes out from time to time, losing his address book on one small excursion away from his study. Therein lies the rub, for now his phone is ringing, and on the other end is a voice insistently offering to return his contacts to him. But why does the caller want to know about a character who, we learn in painstakingly deliberate time, figures in a novel that Daragne wrote years earlier and had forgotten about? Indeed, Daragne has forgotten a great deal that Gilles Ottolini, small-time crook and erstwhile jockey, would like to remind him of, not least a murder that took place more than half a century earlier. Modiano writes tantalizingly, offering just a part of a detail here and another there, inviting the reader to participate in Daragne’s bewilderment (Why him? Why now?), the unfolding identities of the players (Is Ottolini a blackmailer? Is Chantal a femme fatale or a pawn? Just what is the relationship between Annie Astrand and the perhaps half-American Roger Vincent?), and the hallucinatory stroll into a past that constantly raises as many questions as it answers. Modiano blends elements of the procedural, the ghost story, and the existentialist novels of his youth to unpeel an extremely juicy onion at whose core, in the end, would seem to be a meditation on the nature of memory and storytelling alike: “Perhaps he had gathered together all these disparate elements in the hope that Daragne would react to one of them….”

Lyrical and portentous—and sometimes even “dreary and threatening,” as Daragne describes the voice at the other end of the line. Vintage Modiano, and a pleasure for fans of neonoir fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-63506-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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