A light tale that will appeal to fans of the cozy mystery genre.



In Janson’s (Mal Practice, 2013, etc.) mystery set in small-town Nebraska, an ice cream shop owner reluctantly assists her business rival when a dead body is found in his store.

This novel is a competent, cozy mystery of the dream-job genre, in which a sleuth is reluctantly drawn into an investigation when she’d rather be pursuing her desired career. Here, Mary Burke, who graduated from law school but never took the bar exam, spends her days trying to sell ice cream in her small hometown—that is, when she isn’t seething over the antics of Jeremiah “Jerry” Wilson, a Southern California surfer and slacker who’s returned to town to keep an eye on his crazy Aunt May. Unfortunately, Jerry has also chosen to reopen his ice cream parlor, but he isn’t in it for the money—instead, he gives the stuff away. When one of Jerry’s ex-roommates from Huntington Beach, California—the decidedly unsavory Angie—turns up dead in his store, Mary can’t help putting her legal mind to work to help the hapless man out of his fix. The predictable conflict between Midwest small-town values and the presumed sex-drugs-and-rock ’n’ roll lifestyle of Left Coast denizens is played for laughs; Jerry’s apparent stoner vibe, for example, turns out to be more Zen than zonked, and when he talks about selling grass, he actually means sod. However, his blissed-out naïveté can wear thin after a while. There’s some effective nastiness afoot, however, regarding roomies that Jerry tried, and failed, to pull out of destructive lifestyles, and the Nebraskans who hide venality under a wholesome facade. Underneath the high jinks, though, this is a mystery that plays fair and relies on the accumulation and analysis of evidence—rather than characters running around frantically until the solution falls into their lap, as is too often the case in mysteries of this ilk.

A light tale that will appeal to fans of the cozy mystery genre.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990742401

Page Count: 258

Publisher: JM Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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