FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT

A double-double Whopper hot from the grill of "America's literary boogeyman," as he puts it in his introduction: four sizzling horror novellas sandwiched within the theme of "Time. . .and the corrosive effects it can have on the human heart." Sure, they're dripping with excess wordage and high-calorie sentiment, but cut away the fat and there's still more steak here than in any other horror book of the year. The premium cut sits on top: "The Langoliers," whose wildly original premise—that a group of airline passengers travel a few minutes into the past to encounter the entities that eat Being, leaving Nothingness—unfolds in classic King fashion, with a psychic blind girl, a demented financier, a mystery writer, and a British spy awash in mounting suspense (why is the beer "Flat! Flat as a pancake!"?; and what is that sound like "Animals at feeding time" at the place near the airport?). And if the entities turn out to be more whimsical than scary ("sort of like beachballs"), they bounce the tale into King's most upbeat ending ever, a rhapsodic celebration of life. Next comes "Secret Window, Secret Garden," the most self-conscious novella of the four, a dour and tense reworking of Misery and The Dark Half. Here, the crazed fan of the former and the animus-made-flesh of the latter meld into the avenging figure of John Shooter, a failed writer who claims that top author Mort Rainey has stolen one of his stories. Or is Rainey only dreaming Shooter, as penance for a past sin? More inventive—and the scariest of the lot—is "The Library Policeman," turbo-engined horror about a vampire of fear masquerading as a librarian; a subtext (and one graphic scene) of child sex-abuse hones the story into a modern morality tale. Last comes "The Sun Dog," more gleefully splattery horror about the terrors of childhood, wherein a boy comes to own a Polaroid camera that takes pictures only of a menacing hound from hell. King says that" 'The Sun Dog'. . .sets the stage" for a "long novel called Needful Things"—already written. The four novellas here, he confesses, were mostly written "during the two years when I was supposedly retired." Some people just don't know how to take a vacation—not that King's fans will mind: there's grand entertainment value here, reflected by the massive first printing of 1.5 million.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 1991

ISBN: 0451170385

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1990

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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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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