A contemplative representation of the public attitude and cultural atmosphere in the wake of 9/11.


A playwright’s debut novel examines the relationships among strangers brought together by a New York City coffeehouse.

Four months after the 9/11 attacks, Habib el Kader is woken from a recurring nightmare by a phone call from his boss, Jack Healy. Healy delivers the disorienting news that someone has broken into their cafe and stolen the cash box. With little to work from and despite staff testimony to the contrary, the police clearly suspect Habib. Meanwhile, the robbery has the customers speculating and tensions brewing. The narrative viewpoint alternates among various characters, encompassing several patrons and staff members but focusing primarily on the two managers, Habib and David Goldman. Habib is a Muslim father of three whose professional goal is to buy The Coffee Connection from Healy. David is an Israeli former law student struggling to find direction in life as he debates proposing to his girlfriend. The two peacefully coexist, respecting but not fully understanding each other. In addition to the staff, Simmons quickly introduces a robust cast of coffeehouse customers. Examples include a hotheaded political extremist, a thoughtful but obsessive scholar, a pair of aspiring Broadway stars, and a collection of middle-aged schoolteachers who refer to themselves as the Kaffeeklatsch. Although the large cast offers plenty of opportunities for intriguing interpersonal dynamics, it takes a certain amount of effort to keep the various characters from blurring together. Interspersed between the chapters are excerpts from The Almost Complete History of Coffee, an exhaustive research project that dominates the life of one of the patrons. The author’s representation of the beverage is very romantic. The History proclaims that “Coffee has bound men together and torn them apart. It has soothed men’s soul and stimulated their minds. It has liberated some people and brought others to bondage.” While the plot may not be very energetic, the subtlety with which Simmons reveals the characters’ inclinations and biases proves her to be a delicate and perceptive writer.

A contemplative representation of the public attitude and cultural atmosphere in the wake of 9/11.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64378-219-5

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Austin Macauley

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...


Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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