Despite some linguistic flaws, this nostalgic mystery offers a surprising homespun charm.




A murder shakes up a small Southern town in the 1950s in this debut novel.

Miss Titta—in her 60s, widowed, and caring for her 7-year-old granddaughter, Jean—is a pillar of Lena, a farming community in the South. A “graceful woman, of medium height and caramel skin,” she is a healer, midwife, and dispenser of sage advice. Even the local doctors often refer patients to her for herbal remedies and common-sense treatments. It’s a position that has her involved in the lives of many of Lena’s residents. It is through her that readers closely follow the major and minor personal dramas of small-town life. There are the Harrises: Mike has been seriously injured at work, and his wife, Angel, struggles to support the family while their 13-year-old daughter, Chloe, begins to assist Miss Titta in nursing her father back to health. Then there is Jasper and his country store. His son, Yak, has finally convinced his father to modernize, but in the meantime the aisles remain cluttered, Jasper grumbles, and everyone congregates there at one time or another to shop and exchange gossip. And Miss Yvonne, Miss Titta’s friend, is disturbed because her long-missing son has decided to return home to restart his life. Most people in Lena don’t even know she has a son. Hoye writes early on: “The country town’s daily life was familiar, but among the familiar came the unexpected.” For two-thirds of the amiable narrative, readers are lulled gently into the leisurely rhythm of that “familiar” state, with all of its crises and eventual resolutions. The sudden intrusion of a murder effectively fractures that complacency. Although the characters are only lightly developed, it is enjoyable to be around most of them. And Miss Titta makes a fine, plucky amateur detective. But the author’s prose is sometimes lax. She has a penchant for alternating between past and present tenses within a vignette for no apparent reason. And several instances of erroneous word usage go beyond the realm of typos (“People were quick to banish their weapon at each other”). 

Despite some linguistic flaws, this nostalgic mystery offers a surprising homespun charm.

Pub Date: May 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9636906-4-7

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Ishnuvu Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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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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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