A great read, full of local color, from an author to watch.


In Leahy’s intriguing debut mystery, an officer searches for a missing hunting guide in the wilderness of southeastern Alaska and uncovers secrets and lies among a village’s residents.

Life isn’t easy in the tiny village of Yakutuk. For starters, there’s the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness and its dark, frigid winters. There are multigenerational racial conflicts festering between the native people and non-natives, as well as conflicts between the poor and the not-as-poor. Add an abundance of alcohol and guns, many more men than women and an American West mythology. Men are definitely men in Yakutuk, but Norma Faunce, this novel’s female main character, refuses to be pushed around. Faunce, Yakutuk’s newly named peace officer, leads an investigation to find out what happened to the fearless, skilled hunter Ward Hubble. In a village where everyone has enemies, ex-Marine Norma is universally liked. She’s always been able to navigate the uncertain territory between the Yakutuk’s Tlingit residents and the whites and between its most unsavory elements and its upstanding citizens. But is Norma up to the task of solving a murder case? The author confidently portrays harsh Alaskan village life with verisimilitude, offering a sort of noir version of Cicely, Alaska—the charming fictional town in the 1990s TV show Northern Exposure. (For the record, Yakutuk, Alaska, doesn’t exist; however, Yakutat, in the same region, is a real place.) The village’s quirky, eccentric characters harbor burning resentments and hatreds, but many band together when the need arises. First-person narrator Norma takes readers along on her uneasy quest to solve Hubble’s disappearance as she unearths layers of family secrets, infidelities and blood feuds. She harbors her own contradictions and surprises but remains consistently well-drawn and believable throughout the novel. The book’s poetic title and its acknowledgement to poet Rainer Maria Rilke are a bit odd and the only discordant notes in an otherwise well-balanced narrative. Overall, the story’s steady pacing, complex characters and suspense will likely draw readers in.

A great read, full of local color, from an author to watch.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478259695

Page Count: 234

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.


Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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