Nashville and Wall Street provide an authentic setting for smart characters, tight prose and just the right amount of detail.

THE EMERSON GOSPEL

In Burger’s novel, the successful daughter of a country-music legend returns to her Tennessee home and realizes she has more in common with her dysfunctional family than she thought.

Haley Emerson moved to New York to distance herself from her hard-living Nashville roots and to prove there was more in her blood than bourbon and guitar licks. It worked—until she went home for Christmas to find her estranged father back in the picture and her diverse siblings and hard-as-stone Southern “Momma” struggling with the implications. The initial result is the expected one: Haley, the Wall Street wunderkind, deals with stressors just as her father would, and it isn’t long before her job and drinking become part of the problem. While the themes lean toward the typical (big city vs. country, money vs. morality), the author’s tight, smart prose allows them to bloom with a depth and wit lacking in many similar setups. Yet, as a former TV writer, Burger occasionally falls into the traps of screenwriting. Her visual narration, though not utilitarian by any means, has a tendency to jump quickly between scenes. That said, the subplots to which it jumps—those involving siblings and friends—remain compelling enough to complement Haley’s personal struggles, revelations and revolutions. What ultimately drives the narrative’s success is the author’s patience and attention to detail. Burger, who has experience both in finance and country music, builds believable backdrops of New York’s financial district and Nashville’s Music Row. So, like a good country song, it’s not the dysfunction, abuse, alcohol, adultery or faith-issues that sell the Emerson’s struggles, but rather the three-dimensional world into which Burger inserts them.

Nashville and Wall Street provide an authentic setting for smart characters, tight prose and just the right amount of detail.

Pub Date: March 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1462074631

Page Count: 292

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2012

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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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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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