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My Mad Russian

THREE TALES

A trilogy of dense, exciting novellas about American love and greed in different eras.

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Meyers (Wedding on Big Bone Hill, 2014, etc.) offers a collection of three novellas concerning romance and wealth.

The first, titular tale begins in 1933. In it, a wealthy banker named Max Berlin and his private investigator are concerned about the fact that Soviet agents have kidnapped Berlin’s tenant—an eccentric Russian inventor on the cusp of launching a lucrative new technology. This scene leads into Berlin’s account of the changes in art and society in the 1910s, ’20s, and ’30s; his marriage to the independent-minded Dora; and her infatuation with the mad Russian scientist. In Big Luck, set in the first decade of the current century, Mexican immigrant Ricardo is reluctant to seek American citizenship due to his occupation as a live-in catamite for a wealthy Iranian exile. When Ricardo’s lover breaks off the arrangement, he must find a new way to support himself, and he’s lured into a scheme to hide an acquaintance’s lottery winnings as tax-deductible gambling losses. In Sidestep, a college dropout goes to work for a wealthy friend of her father’s in an Ohio college town that the friend’s family has dominated for generations. She quickly falls into her new benefactor’s bed, but rumors about his wealth, and his sexual history, begin to concern her. Meyers is a masterly communicator of place, whether it be Manhattan of the 1930s or Los Angeles of the 2000s. Most impressively, he’s able to lock into the language and attitudes of each time and location. For example, Berlin narrates in the stodgy, judgmental declarations of a man of his class and generation: “The process of waking up to life is painful, and one our civilization feels it best to postpone, and which children themselves are happy to push off as long as they can.” The breadth of geography and history that Meyers covers keeps the collection varied and engrossing, and he has a knack for splashing a story with just enough mystery to keep readers plowing ahead. These novellas make an impression, and the only way to recover from one is to dive into the next.

A trilogy of dense, exciting novellas about American love and greed in different eras.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1634902403

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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NORMAL PEOPLE

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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