``Fear pressed to her skin like brass against tracing paper, rubbing dark lines across her face....An ambulance flashed across, ahead, its siren a swirling banshee that beat her stomach like an egg whisk.'' Nicely done! James will find this—his fifth horror novel— hard to match, since its strengths arise from its modesty, its unwillingness to go for broke at each horror, and—relative to the genre—a creepy realism. Once again, he creates an androgynously named heroine, this time Frannie (in Dreamer it was ``Sam'' for Samantha, in Possession Alex, etc.). Whether this all stems from James' wife being named Georgina is anyone's guess, but he must have a superb female research assistant since he deals in detail with the feminine, from a woman's psychology of clothing, to the erectility of downy hairs, and even to the swoon of her inner organs in a rising elevator. The reader feels plunged into Frannie, an archaeologist in the British Museum, who finds that her parents' cafe has been built on the site of a vast number of murders by a 16th-century pedophile. Synchronicity has it that she falls in love with Oliver Halkin, the current eldest male descendant of the murderer who left a pool of evil under Frannie's folks' cafe. Three years ago while helping out her parents as a waitress, Frannie served Oliver and his son Edward some drinks just minutes before Oliver's wife was beheaded in a motor accident outside the cafe. Is troubled young Edward inhabited by his lingering ancestor, who set up the mother to be killed before the child's eyes? Meanwhile, Frannie's college buddies who once joined her around a Ouija board in the cafe's cellar drop like flies—and the numbers say it's now Frannie's turn to face the blood lust of a living evil... Stupid? Sure. But smart writing keeps it gripping all the way.

Pub Date: March 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-10526-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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