Cynicism and adult words stave off sappiness but don’t remotely dampen the magical story’s genuine charm.

The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

In this fantasy debut, a wealthy but discontented businessman remembers his childhood journey through Chicago’s hidden, enchanted side with creatures and anthropomorphic animals.

Richard K. Lyons has become quite a success in the white-collar world as the “vice president of something.” But he’s far from happy, a philandering family man who dabbles too often in cocaine and alcohol and remains numbed by the stagnant workday routine. One Friday, Richard comes across a strangely familiar homeless girl, who plays him a song on the flute that apparently stirs up long-forgotten memories. As a boy, when he went by Rich, he encountered Francesca Finnegan, a girl who seemed to appear out of thin air. Francesca takes Rich on an otherworldly trek, starting with the Chicago “L” Lavender Line, a rapid-transit line Rich hasn’t heard of. The two head to the city’s largely unknown East Side, the only side not represented on Chicago’s flag. Rich’s surprised not only by the cat-headed conductor, but also the mythical beings aboard the train, from a giant Minotaur to a Cyclops. On their way to a ball at Aragon Castle, Rich and Francesca hear tales of the city’s “true history,” including slight variations on the Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Great Chicago Fire. Further adventures await, but will Richard’s recollections help him rediscover the boy he once was? Wiley renders his cheeky novel in the style of a children’s book, which he coats in satirical humor. Templeton Goodfellow, for example, is an elf decidedly uglier than elves as they’re often portrayed, with ratty hair and skin that looks its age of 10,000 years. Cihon’s illustrations follow suit: cartoonish Mr. Fox is endearing in his formal attire but clearly miserable standing in a snowstorm. Wiley, however, fills the pages with ethereal descriptions, such as alluding to Francesca’s curious “kaleidoscopic” hair and eyes, changing colors when she moves. There are just enough obscenities uttered to ensure this book is never shelved in the children’s or even YA section. The story, though, is anything but vulgar, a sweet and uplifting tale as heartwarming as the ones it’s poking fun at.

Cynicism and adult words stave off sappiness but don’t remotely dampen the magical story’s genuine charm.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 177

Publisher: Lavender Line Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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