In this somewhat familiar tale, a confrontational psychiatrist infuses therapy with menace to the delight of thriller...



When fallen angels place wagers, human souls are used as currency in this psychological thriller.

The personification of Death, the angel Azrael, is dispensing therapy as Allister Boone, psychiatrist. Not caring whether he helps a patient means he specializes in tough love: “Name one thing…that you dislike about yourself.” He’s only working as a psychiatrist in the service of a bet with fellow dark angel Time. Collaborating since Earth’s creation, they seek to prove if one has power over the other. The game revolves around mortals. Time sends patients to Death with suicidal urges. In the guise of Allister, Azrael attempts to divert their fates. Time tells Azrael: “Let’s see how many lives you can save…while I work against you to end them.” Time will collect a point for “any death involving the suicide of one of” Allister’s patients. But the game’s rules become blurred when other angels, dark and light, make complex deals with one another to exert influence on the contest. Lucifer eventually warns Death: “Time is the dirtiest of all players, Azrael; he’ll do anything to win.” Allister can read his patients’ minds but he fails to be shocked into action by a planned murder-suicide of a whole family. His secretary, Nancy, admonishes him: “Even one death you don’t try to stop, and you can lose everything.” Azrael begins to question how impartial he really is, and whether he can truly stand as witness to humanity’s destructive impulses. “Inspired by a true story,” Tacuski’s (Dirty Eden, 2012) tale displays some fine points, such as fluid dialogue, fully realized secondary characters, and a surprising twist ending that doesn’t court incredulity. The macabre game rules are unique, albeit a bit confusing. But a few elements are eerily similar to other pop-culture offerings. The overall conceit draws obvious comparisons to Netflix’s Lucifer and its source material. Allister’s inner monologues resemble the ones in the Dexter TV series and books. A major childhood trauma brings to mind The Silence of the Lambs. This may just prove the popularity of psychological thrillers, but many readers will find it difficult to be truly shocked by Allister’s actions when it feels like oft-trodden ground. Still, this grim story should please genre fans.

In this somewhat familiar tale, a confrontational psychiatrist infuses therapy with menace to the delight of thriller enthusiasts.

Pub Date: April 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-09-191084-3

Page Count: 265

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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