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

My Mad Russian

THREE TALES

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

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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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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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