A clever, timely tale about desperate people maneuvering through a tricky situation.

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A Philadelphia couple whose marriage is on the rocks try to fend off their landlords, who are scheming to move back into their house, in this novel.

James Cowper is British, but he has spent his adult life in Philadelphia, married for 20 years to a nurse named Imani. They have one son who is away at college. After some financial setbacks and marriage counseling, they have moved into a historic house. James is working for a firm that secures art for auctions, but he’s had some problems there, too, and owes the owner several thousand dollars. The couple’s landlords, Bruce and Davorka Miller, have leased their home to the Cowpers for two years while the Millers have moved to Florida. But after a hurricane destroyed the home and all their possessions, the Millers have returned to Philadelphia with a plan to move back into their house and evict the Cowpers. Hanging on by only Imani’s nursing salary and the validity of the lease, James needs to get back in his wife’s good graces and also find a rare piece of art that will give him some financial security. But the Millers have house keys and are not the kind of people who will take no for an answer. Kay’s enjoyable novel has a robust plot that captures her headstrong characters’ mad dash to stay afloat in rapidly gentrifying Philadelphia. They all carry so much baggage that their eventual collision with one another in the story’s hilarious third act makes for a truly madcap dinner party like no other. The issues are many, but the dialogue is full of wit and gives clear insight into the characters’ obstinate and oftentimes amusing psyches. James is very British, but he’s after something uniquely American, and his thorny journey is written with charm and vitality.

A clever, timely tale about desperate people maneuvering through a tricky situation.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-8381914-0-5

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Darley Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

ANXIOUS PEOPLE

Eight people become unlikely friends during a hostage situation created by an inept bank robber.

In a town in Sweden, a desperate parent turns to bank robbery to help pay the rent. Unfortunately, the target turns out to be a cashless bank, which means that no robbery can take place. In an attempt to flee the police, the would-be perpetrator runs into a nearby apartment building and interrupts an open house, causing the would-be buyers to assume they're being held hostage. After the situation has ended with an absent bank robber and blood on the carpet, a father-and-son police pair work through maddening interviews with the witnesses: the ridiculous realtor; an older couple who renovates and sells apartments in an effort to stay busy; a bickering young couple expecting their first child; a well-off woman interested only in the view from the balcony of a significant bridge in her life; an elderly woman missing her husband as New Year’s Eve approaches; and, absurdly, an actor dressed as a rabbit hired to disrupt the showing and drive down the apartment price. Backman’s latest novel focuses on how a shared event can change the course of multiple people’s lives even in times of deep and ongoing anxiousness. The observer/narrator is winding and given to tangents and, in early moments, might distract a bit too much from the strongly drawn characters. But the story gains energy and sureness as it develops, resulting in moments of insight and connection between its numerous amiable characters.

A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6083-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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