An effectively told, low-key tale of an arduous, sometimes-frightening road to fame.



A Haitian-born man learns that making it in the cutthroat American music industry may require black magic and blood sacrifice in Mafate’s (When the Cobra Strikes, 2012, etc.) thriller.

When 16-year-old Raymond Pata immigrated to the United States from Haiti, he had aspirations for stardom. At 24, he finally decides to move to California in pursuit of a music career. His mother, Jean Pata, who’s built a successful cleaning business, refuses to support Raymond’s endeavor since he dropped out of college. So Raymond, on his own in California, takes a dubious gig driving stolen luxury cars. But even with his talent and musical equipment, breaking into the music biz seems unachievable. As per his mother’s recommendation, Raymond sees Baba Brima, a powerful witch doctor who can put him closer to fame. Brima performs a ritual that requires that Raymond appease gods with a blood sacrifice—committing a handful of murders to ensure the success of his band, The Rhythm Makers. This sparks serious media attention as authorities, linking the murders by their ritualistic aspect, hunt a serial killer. But it’s a mysterious, alluring woman who flusters Raymond. Following their initial encounter, she vanishes, and his obsession with her could ultimately be his downfall. Mafate’s novel originated as a screenplay, which is evident from the story’s myriad scenes of dialogue and minimal action. But the well-devised dialogue propels the story and provides seamless background. Though Raymond’s later homicidal acts significantly curtail any sympathy readers may feel for him, Mafate doesn’t glamorize the murders. Furthermore, references to African deities such as Nana Buluku and Mawu are respectful; whatever deeds a believer such as Raymond commits are on the individual, not the religion. Supernatural elements crop up in the final act, but like much of the preceding story, they’re shrewdly understated.

An effectively told, low-key tale of an arduous, sometimes-frightening road to fame.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62137-892-1

Page Count: 336


Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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