AMERICAN FEVER

A TALE OF ROMANCE & PESTILENCE

A New York-based blogger chronicles a worldwide flu outbreak until the fallout from the pandemic—and his blogging—crashes through his front door.

Maskman, aka Count Blogula, is a libertarian flu profiteer, selling gloves, masks and goggles on his website while writing feverishly about the coming pandemic, a deadly strain of avian flu called H5N1. When his blog’s readership explodes overnight, educating the masses from his online soapbox becomes priority one, making him an anonymous celebrity in the flu-blog community, even earning him a mysterious, yet charming, female stalker. As more people succumb to the disease, Blogula watches as his community descends into anarchy, and the country falls into a state of martial law, where America’s most prolific flu fighter is now branded a terrorist. Hall’s debut recalls a modern take on Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, striving for and mostly achieving the same level of thoroughness. The novel is well researched and notable for pointing out what we know, or perhaps more importantly don’t know, about influenza. The sole complication is the narrator. Blogula is a detached, half-Randian narcissist, lacking compassion in little ways that speak volumes about his character, making him feel largely unreliable. While these flaws render many of his valid points suspect, it actually strengthens the story, and the surplus of self-involved musings directed at readers perfectly captures the unique tone often struck by even the most professional bloggers. The only other downside to the book’s “blog as a novel” literary device is pacing-related—big moments, from the flu’s resurgences to the breakdown of law and order, are almost always recounted in the past tense, robbing these events of urgency and narrative weight. Still, this same style allows for intimate slices of life amid the horror, inspirational impressions of perseverance and survival in a time of great crisis. A tad dry and exposition-heavy, the novel’s style is ultimately more of an asset than a detriment to the story it seeks to tell.

 

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984678006

Page Count: 299

Publisher: Arterial Witness

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2012

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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