A mysterious fable about honesty and deceit, love and self-loathing, and our sometimes-doomed quests for inner peace.

AFTER ME COMES THE FLOOD

In this eerie debut novel from Perry (Melmoth, 2018, etc.), now published in the U.S. for the first time, a man becomes lost in the woods only to be welcomed by a household of strange but passionate residents.

Tired of the summer heat, John Cole sets off from his London bookshop to visit his brother, who lives by the sea. But John never arrives. In the dark Thetford forest, his car breaks down, and he loses his way in the woods. At the end of a path, he reaches the door of a grand mansion. The young girl who opens it seems to recognize him. "John Cole! Is that you? It is you, isn't it—it must be, I'm so glad. I've been waiting for you all day!" So begins Perry's unsettling debut, which shuttles between fairy story and allegory without ever resolving into a single shape or genre. The house is both magnificent and menacing, with "broken chandeliers trailing chipped strings of glass drops," a glass eye constantly changing hands, and empty meat hooks dangling in the kitchen. Consumed with dread and guilt about being an imposter, John chronicles his days with the residents in a journal that reads like a fever dream. There's Hester, a fiercely protective matron and former actress; Elijah, a former preacher who has lost his faith and fears going outside; Walker, a chain-smoking, card-playing devil in a rumpled tuxedo; Eve, a coquettish pianist who longs for attention; and the siblings Clare and Alex, otherworldly changelings who seem at once capable of complete innocence and total guile. Unlike Perry's following two novels, plot matters less than mood here—confusion, uncertainty, and endless possibility unfold over the week of John's stay. Even the sundial in the garden tells "two times at once." What connects this fragile household together? Who is sending Alex cruel poison-pen letters? Why does Eve make John feel "pain set up very low in his stomach…as if hooks had been pushed through his flesh"? And whose place has John actually taken? Like Shirley Jackson, Carmen Maria Machado, and other evocative masters of the gothic, Perry circles closer to answers without ever dispelling the magic that holds her narrative in breathless suspense.

A mysterious fable about honesty and deceit, love and self-loathing, and our sometimes-doomed quests for inner peace.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266640-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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