Uneven but charming, Champaneri’s debut intrigues even as the writing occasionally sags.

THE CITY OF GOOD DEATH

Ghosts haunt the living in a holy Hindu city.

This debut novel is set in Kashi, on the banks of the Ganges. Believers say that those who die in Kashi experience a “good death,” meaning they die once and for all, with no reincarnation. Pilgrims come from far and wide hoping to spend their last days in one of Kashi’s designated death hostels, one of which is managed by a man named Pramesh. Pramesh grew up outside of Kashi with an alcoholic and abusive father and uncle and a cousin who resembled him so closely they passed as twins. As Champaneri’s novel begins, Pramesh’s cousin, Sagar, suddenly shows up in Kashi, having died under mysterious circumstances. Then his ghost begins to haunt Pramesh’s hostel—the washroom, specifically—with an earth-shattering racket, and nothing that anyone does seems to have any effect. What Sagar’s ghost wants is just one of the mysteries of this somewhat overstuffed book. Champaneri’s Kashi is teeming and vivid, but her prose can sometimes feel overdone. The story sags in places. Most interesting are the flashbacks to Pramesh and Sagar’s childhood, but these moments often feel rushed. It’s possible that Champaneri is trying to fit in too much. A subplot involving yet another ghost—this one a young woman’s—is compelling but never quite coheres with the novel’s main action. Still, the book frequently charms, and it's as full of humor, warmth, and mystery as Kashi’s own marketplace.

Uneven but charming, Champaneri’s debut intrigues even as the writing occasionally sags.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63206-252-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Restless Books

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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