An unsatisfying novel that hits expected genre notes but fails to challenge its readers.

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WHERE SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE

A newly married couple suffer severe, unexpected setbacks in this Christian novel from Campbell (Who Will Hear Them Cry, 2012).

Jim Miller is the pastor of Grace Church in wealthy Adamsville, Virginia. He’s just become engaged to the church’s organist, Amy Brandt, and the two are madly in love. However, when the U.S. invades Iraq, Jim’s military reserve unit is called up, forcing the couple to move up their wedding date. Jim goes to war and soon ends up in a hospital in Germany; however, his mother is still listed as his next of kin, and she won’t tell Amy details of what happened. When Jim is shipped back home, Amy rushes to meet him but, on the way, sustains a concussion and a broken leg in a car accident. Later, she learns that Jim has been permanently blinded as a result of a head wound. “Oh, my darling,” Amy tells him when she finally sees him, “you’ll never know how I’ve wished I could give you my sight and take your blindness.” To make matters worse, after they get back to Adamsville, the congregation votes to remove Jim as pastor, believing that he’ll be unable to fulfill his duties. As the Millers’ faith, and marriage, is stretched to its limits, they hear of a job opening in the tiny town of Pleasantville, and what they find there may be just what they need to get back on track. Campbell effectively manages to fashion a modern Job story of sorts, and Christian readers may enjoy watching the Millers rise to the occasion as they face various obstacles. The book is a bit overly sentimental, however; the prose style is often treacly, as when Amy sees Jim for the very first time: “She had been so absorbed by those eyes that she hadn’t noticed anything else. His skin was deeply tanned, and he had the kind of mouth that seemed made for smiling.” Overall, neither the plot nor the characters ever feels very realistic, and as such, the conclusion of this faith parable doesn’t feel particularly revelatory.

An unsatisfying novel that hits expected genre notes but fails to challenge its readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-951461-18-8

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Goldtouch Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2020

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

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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THE POET

Connelly takes a break from his Harry Bosch police novels (The Last Coyote, p. 328, etc.) for something even more intense: a reporter's single-minded pursuit of the serial killer who murdered his twin. Even his buddies in the Denver PD thought Sean McEvoy's shooting in the backseat of his car looked like a classic cop suicide, right clown to the motive: his despondency over his failure to clear the murder of a University of Denver student. But as Sean's twin brother, Jack, of the Rocky Mountain News, notices tiny clues that marked Sean's death as murder, his suspicions about the dying message Sean scrawled inside his fogged windshield—"Out of space. Out of time"—alert him to a series of eerily similar killings stretching from Sarasota to Albuquerque. The pattern, Jack realizes, involves two sets of murders: a series of sex killings of children, and then the executions (duly camouflaged as suicides) of the investigating police officers. Armed with what he's dug up, Jack heads off to Washington, to the Law Enforcement Foundation and the FBI. The real fireworks begin as Jack trades his official silence for an inside role in the investigation, only to find himself shut out of both the case and the story. From then on in, Jack, falling hard for Rachel Walling, the FBI agent in charge of the case, rides his Bureau connections like a bucking bronco—even as one William Gladden, a pedophile picked up on a low-level charge in Santa Monica, schemes to make bail before the police can run his prints through the national computer, then waits with sick patience for his chance at his next victim. The long-awaited confrontation between Jack and Gladden comes at an LA video store; but even afterward, Jack's left with devastating questions about the case. Connelly wrings suspense out of every possible aspect of Jack's obsessive hunt for his brother's killer. Prepare to be played like a violin.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-15398-2

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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