A dark, coiled-up ramble through the woods, as quick and cutting as a razor blade.

BLACK HEART ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

Three damaged travelers connect with each other on a pilgrimage to trek over 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

A pilgrimage is usually a good thing. Dig the whimsical adventures of Bill Bryson’s trek in A Walk in the Woods or the heartwarming Emilio Estevez film, The Way, about the Camino de Santiago? This is not either of those stories. This is vicious backwoods noir in the tradition of Daniel Woodrell and Cormac McCarthy, and experienced hiker Forrester (Miracles, Inc., 2010) is damned good at his job. We open in the desolation of a village in rural Wyoming, where ex-con Taz Chavis is so messed up he finds himself feeling up a local barfly’s wooden leg. “That’s what the gutter does to a guy, eats him to the bone,” Forrester writes. Leaving town with still-raw memories of his cokehead girlfriend, Chavis swears to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail or die trying. Along the way, we meet Richard Nelson, a Native American who claims to be a shaman among his people. “White man, if you want to get laid on the trail, you best come up with some New-Age shit mixed with nature,” Richard advises. These guys seem all shades of normal compared with good citizen Simone Decker, who has a real thing for sharing high cliffs with other hikers (read: potential victims). “She’s here because she’s convinced herself that no one can thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and be the same person as when they started,” Forrester writes. “She hopes change will arrive like an erupting volcano, melting her genes so completely that when they cool she’ll become someone else entirely.” With bodies broken in trees and first-person plummets to death, the whole thing is, as our man Hobbes said, nasty, brutish and short. But for fans of snakebite prose, this is your book.

A dark, coiled-up ramble through the woods, as quick and cutting as a razor blade.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-7561-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NORMAL PEOPLE

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. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more