Residents struggling to survive Marin County’s high cost of living resort to robbery, blackmail and murder in Miller’s (All You Can Eat, 2011) dark comedy.

Thirty-one-year-old Casey, unemployed and living with his mother, finds a friendly soul in Doug, as both men are looking for ways to make money in their affluent California county. But it turns out that their meeting wasn’t happenstance: Doug’s live-in lover, Marie, told him to find someone they could use for her sinister, criminal plan. Doug wants to leave Marie, but she thrives on exerting control over him; she gives Doug a monetary allowance while also working her wiles on Casey. Her violent biker ex-boyfriend, Nicky, also has a role in her scheme, providing her with parts for a device she plans to use. But when Marie’s dominance wanes, she’ll do whatever it takes to see that her plan comes to fruition—even if means killing someone. Readers will find it fairly easy to figure out Casey’s role in the plan, even though it isn’t revealed until near the end. However, Miller’s plot is really just a vehicle for introducing an animated cast of characters, including bartender Paul, who seems to have a British accent despite being American; Casey’s foulmouthed, cat-loving mother; and Doug’s co-worker Cookie, who has an affinity for poetry. The book engages in bouts of black humor but also delves into its share of gloom; for example, Marie hates her father so intensely—for something a therapist “helped her remember”—that she imagines killing him in various ways. A scene in which Doug suggests the possibility of seeing someone else romantically leads to a response from Marie that’s surprisingly unnerving. The most dynamic (and hilarious) character is Nicky, despite his fondness for aggressive behavior, particularly against “rubbies,” rich urban bikers. He makes tomfoolery seem perfectly reasonable, and his former job sprucing up run-down mopeds and selling them on Craigslist somehow makes sense in context.

This engaging comic novel’s story and characters will draw readers in.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1491288207

Page Count: 298

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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