A promising paranormal tale that ultimately fails to soar.

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"NIGHT OF THE CLIPPER"

"IN THE AFTERMATH OF ONE OF THE NATION'S WORST AIR DISASTERS, ONE PASSENGER REMAINS."

A teenager discovers that a victim of a 50-year-old plane crash isn’t yet at rest in this debut supernatural novel.

Fourteen-year-old Douglas Pledger isn’t thrilled when his family moves from Virginia to the small town of Elkton, Md., but when he explores a field near his new home, he encounters something extraordinary—the wreckage of a crashed jet that only he can see. His conversations with the colorful locals reveal that in 1963, Pan Am Flight 214 crashed in that same field, killing everyone aboard. Douglas soon befriends Dave Holt, a retired fireman who was one of the first responders to the scene. Together, they dig deeper into the events of that night and eventually contact Celeste Creeley, the cousin of Rose Kelly, a 12-year-old who died in the crash. Together, they discover that Rose’s restless spirit is trapped in the field, and only Douglas can help her find peace. Walcek spins a fanciful yarn, with healthy doses of the supernatural and, when an enterprising ghost hunter arrives on the scene, some high drama. It also effectively mixes fiction with fact: The novel’s characters are invented, but the descriptions of the plane’s final moments are drawn from real-life radio transmissions from a Pan Am flight. Although it’s a simple ghost story on the surface, it’s also an exploration of the ripple effects of disaster and how long-ago traumas can haunt people for decades. Unfortunately, its overwritten prose style slows the pace, and basic facts are often restated unnecessarily; one passage near the end of the book, for example, needlessly identifies Douglas as “a recently displaced teenager with enough on his plate from having been uprooted from his former home in Virginia.” Still, the burgeoning romance between Dave and Celeste is engaging, and readers will likely find it hard not to root for the sensitive, well-meaning Douglas as he desperately tries to make sense of the strange things happening around him.

A promising paranormal tale that ultimately fails to soar.

Pub Date: April 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1484141250

Page Count: 432

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2013

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A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW

In this tale of a young German Jewish girl under the protection of a golem—a magical creature of Jewish myth created from mud and water—Hoffman (The Rules of Magic, 2017, etc.) employs her signature lyricism to express the agony of the Holocaust with a depth seldom equaled in more seemingly realistic accounts.

The golem, named Ava, comes into being in 1941 Berlin. Recently made a widow by the Gestapo and desperate to get her 12-year-old daughter, Lea, out of Germany, Hanni Kohn hires Ettie, a rabbi’s adolescent daughter who has witnessed her father creating a golem, to make a female creature who must obey Hanni by protecting Lea at all costs. Ettie uses Hanni’s payment to escape on the same train toward France as Lea and Ava, but the two human girls’ lives take different paths. Ettie, who has always chafed at the limits placed on her gender, becomes a Resistance fighter set on avenging her younger sister’s killing by Nazis. Lea, under Ava’s supernatural care, escapes the worst ravages of the war, staying first with distant cousins in Paris (already under Gestapo rule), where she falls in love with her hosts' 14-year-old son, Julien; then in a convent school hiding Jewish girls in the Rhone Valley; then in a forest village not far from where Ettie has partnered in her Resistance activities with Julien’s older brother. While Lea’s experiences toughen and mature her, Ettie never stops mourning her sister but finds something like love with a gentle gentile doctor who has his own heartbreaking backstory. In fact, everyone in the large cast of supporting human characters—as well as the talking heron that is Ava’s love interest and Azriel, the Angel of Death—becomes vividly real, but Ava the golem is the heart of the book. Representing both fierce maternal love and the will to survive, she forces Lea and Ettie to examine their capacities to make ethical choices and to love despite impossible circumstances.

A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3757-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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