The first two volumes of Auster's "New York Trilogy"—City of Glass (1985) and Ghosts (1986)—used mystery-fiction formulas as the basis for avant-garde explorations of identity crisis, death wish, and other existential traumas. This concluding book offers more straightforward treatment of similar material—as a middling N.Y. writer finds happiness, then despair, by taking over the life and work of his more gifted alter ego. The unnamed narrator here is a reasonably successful young book-critic circa 1976—when he answers a plea from lovely Sophie Fanshawe: her writer-husband has disappeared, leaving Sophie with a baby, a closetful of unpublished manuscripts, and instructions on how to proceed. So the narrator, who was Fanshawe's childhood friend/soulmate, agrees to follow Fanshawe's wishes: he'll evaluate the manuscripts, arranging either for their publication or their incineration. And the result is that the narrator is soon presiding over "a small industry" of acclaimed Fanshawe works; he also marries wonderful Sophie (she gets a quickie divorce from Fanshawe, who's presumed dead), adopts her baby son, and begins work on the definitive biography of this mysterious, hitherto-unknown genius named Fanshawe. But career/domestic bliss soon sours, of course—because the narrator learns (via an enigmatic message) that Fanshawe's still alive, because research for the bio leads to the awareness that "lives make no sense." Now obsessed with locating Fanshawe, the narrator finds himself out of control—having sex with Fanshawe's mother ("fucking out of hatred"), vowing to kill Fanshawe, committing random violence, losing himself in a booze/sex binge. And finally, after realizing that Fanshawe "functioned as a trope for the death inside me," the narrator has a showdown with his elusive, cryptic alter-ego. In its first half, this is an intriguing literary-world tale, slightly unreal, yet persuasive enough to be likably reminiscent of stories by Bellow, Henry James, and many others. Then, however, murky psycho-philosophical dynamics—Camus manque—take over, much as they did in Ghosts. (The apparently autobiographical narrator says of the trilogy: "These three stories are finally the same story, but each one represents a different stage in my awareness of what it is about.")

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Sun & Moon

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1987

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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