QUAKE

A big one on the Richter scale, but not the big one expected along the San Andreas Fault, hits Los Angeles and definitely strips Angelenos of their morals. At the start, the quake allows sex-hungry psychopath Stanley Banks to kill his wheelchair-bound mother by smashing a piece of ceiling plaster over her head. Stanley is the novel's chief villain, but as the tale unwinds, many equally disgusting people are loosed into the reader's mind, each a little worse than the other. Nasty people caught up in stomach-churning pornoviolence, though, are a Laymon specialty (Savage, 1994, etc.). Here, Stanley leches for his sexy neighbor, Sheila Banner, and when the earth quakes at 8:20 a.m. or so, naked Sheila jumps into her bathtub for safety, where Stanley soon finds her, unhurt but pinned by beams. While readying Sheila for ``rescue,'' he rapes their neighbor Judy Wellman, then kills another neighbor bent on helping Sheila. Meanwhile, Sheila's husband, Clint, tries to get home from his office and back to his family, but instead gets mixed up with Mary Davis, who has a car that runs, and with spunky but weird 13-year- old Emerald O'Hara, who is parted from her family. Also trying to get crosstown through collapsed buildings, fires, sheared-off hydrants, and wrecked cars are Clint's daughter Barbara, a teacher, her student Heather, and her boyfriend Pete. Sudden death lurks everywhere as looters rape and rampage and kill each other for cars and bikes. Laymon's insistent eroticism on nearly every page—after granting himself an earthquake to work with, accidental death and destruction left and right, not to mention a blood-bedewed killer pussycat and grisly maniacs skinning people alive—well, his endless torn blouses, breast-peepery, and slather of liplicking lusts are wildly out of place. A poor disaster epic whose vulturous vulgarity cramps all possible scope.

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-312-13150-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel.

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DEATH IN HER HANDS

A note suggesting a woman has been killed in the woods captures the imagination of an elderly woman, with alarming intensity.

Vesta, the extremely unreliable narrator of Moshfegh’s fourth novel (My Year of Rest and Relaxation, 2018, etc.), is a 72-year-old widow who’s recently purchased a new home, a cabin on a former Girl Scout camp. Walking her dog through the nearby woods, she sees a note lying on the ground which says that a woman named Magda has been killed "and here is her dead body," but there's no body there or any sign of violence. Call the police? Too easy: Instead, Vesta allows herself to be consumed with imagining what Magda might have been like and the circumstances surrounding her murder. Whatever the opposite of Occam’s razor is, Vesta’s detective work is it: After some web searching on how mystery writers do their work, she surmises that Magda was a Belarussian teen sent to the United States to work at a fast-food restaurant, staying in the basement of a woman whose son, Blake, committed the murder. Moshfegh on occasion plays up the comedy of Vesta’s upside-down thinking: “A good detective presumes more than she interrogates.” But Vesta slowly reveals herself as what we might now call a Moshfegh-ian lead: a woman driven to isolation and feeling disassociated from herself, looking for ways to cover up for a brokenness she's loath to confront. Over the course of the novel, Vesta’s projections about Magda's identity become increasingly potent and heartbreaking symbols of wounds from the narrator's childhood and marriage. The judgmental voice of her late husband, Walter, keeps rattling in her head, and she defiantly insists that “I didn’t want Walter in my mindspace anymore. I wanted to know things on my own.” You simultaneously worry about Vesta and root for her, and Moshfegh’s handling of her story is at once troubling and moving.

An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel. (This book has been postponed; we'll update the publication date when it's available.)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7935-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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