A capably written, genre-bending story filled with creepy-crawlies and refreshingly curious humans.

The Tale of Old Man Fischer

Neighborhood lore becomes a frightening reality for a young boy who dares to trespass on the property of Old Man Fischer in this debut mystery.

When pets disappear in his suburban Chicago neighborhood, 12-year-old Shane O’Conner and his classmates suspect their elderly neighbor, a miserable loner who only talks to children when he wants them off his lawn. The school bully taps Shane to investigate (or else!), but the boy’s natural curiosity leads him to a mystery set deep in the rain forest of Costa Rica, where a younger Dr. Hans Fischer lost his botanist wife on a science expedition. The son of a political prisoner in Soviet-controlled East Germany, Fischer found solace by studying insects: “The tiny world allowed me to escape my dismal childhood,” he recalls. But it was his marriage to Jillian—a kind and brilliant woman he met in school—that gave his life meaning. Now he lives alone, haunted by the events of that fateful trip to Central America. As Old Man Fischer tells his side of the story in alternating chapters, Shane gets his friends and family members to fill in the rest of the details, and the intriguing and complicated scientist who emerges shatters Shane’s first impression of the frail old man. A marked contrast between Shane’s youthful voice and Old Man Fischer’s more mature perspective effectively wraps the adult mystery in this middle-grade novel, leaving readers to wonder which of Russell’s two narrators they can truly believe. Shane is independent and brave, but he struggles at home and school. He and his younger sister, who suffers from a medical condition, are often left at a school’s child care program while their mother works in a hotel and their father, a bakery owner, chases the American dream. The scenes from Shane’s daily life feel real and relatable even as unusual events take place at Old Man Fischer’s house.

A capably written, genre-bending story filled with creepy-crawlies and refreshingly curious humans.

Pub Date: May 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-615-87936-9

Page Count: 338

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Did you like this book?

more