Fans of Indiana Jones movies and Dan Brown novels will enjoy this one.

BONE CHASE

A thriller that dips into ancient myths, folklore, and the Old Testament to tell about a race to find giants.

Ethan McCloud is a laid-off math teacher from Nebraska whose dad asks if he’s seen a six-fingered man. Dad is then killed either by an aneurism or by the Six-Fingered Man, and either way, “Burying a father sucks.” Father leaves behind a video urging his son to search for giants because “you think critically and base your answers on provable facts.” Ethan tells his girlfriend, Shanny, that he has “information about how no shit real giants exist.” Indeed, he’s shown a picture of a skeleton, “a living, breathing, human-shaped thing, seventy-five feet tall.” But searching is a dangerous business. People die after discovering giant bones because “They just knew too much.” There are many biblical references to giants which Ethan considers to be evidence. He muses, what if we descended from giants instead of from apes? “This isn’t just a race to find giants,” Shanny declares. “It’s a race to find God.” The story moves along reasonably well, with the usual threats, like the girlfriend being in mortal danger. But the pacing hits a speed bump when Ethan brings up an abstruse mathematical concept called the Hodge Conjecture in painful detail and fails to show its relevance. And while the writing and storytelling are entertaining, the author’s metaphors just work too hard. “The distance to the trailer was a rheostat of fear.” A man’s “mouth slammed into a frown.” “Butterflies scythed through Ethan.” And “his mind filled with ants who were busy rebuilding the possible futures.” The best exchange, though: “I thought you were dead.” “I got better.”

Fans of Indiana Jones movies and Dan Brown novels will enjoy this one.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5009-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A weird, wild ride.

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A blackhearted but wayward yarn.

LAPVONA

A peasant boy gets an introduction to civilization, such as it is.

Moshfegh’s gloomy fifth novel is set in the medieval village of Lapvona, ruled by Villiam, who’s paranoid and cruel when he’s not inept. (For instance, he sends murderous bandits into town if he hears of dissent among the farmers.) Marek, a 13-year-old boy, is becoming increasingly curious about his brutish provenance. He questions whether his mother indeed died in childbirth, as his father, Jude, insists. (The truth is more complicated, of course.) He struggles to reconcile the disease and death he witnesses with the stories of a forgiving God he was raised with. His sole source of comfort is Ina, the village wet nurse. During the course of the year tracked by the novel, Marek finds his way to Villiam, who fills his time with farcical and occasionally grotesque behavior. Villiam’s right-hand man, the village priest, is comically ignorant about Scripture, and Villiam compels Marek and a woman assistant into some scatological antics. The fact that another assistant is named Clod gives a sense of the intellectual atmosphere. Which is to say that the novel is constructed from familiar Moshfegh-ian stuff: dissolute characters, a willful rejection of social norms, the occasional gross-out. At her best, she’s worked that material into stark, brilliant character studies (Eileen, 2015) or contemporary satires (My Year of Rest and Relaxation, 2018). Here, though, the tone feels stiff and the story meanders. The Middle Ages provide a promising setting for her—she describes a social milieu that’s only clumsily established hierarchies, religion, and an economy, and she wants us to question whether we’ve evolved much beyond it. But the assortment of dim characters and perverse delusions does little more than repetitively expose the brutality of (as Villiam puts it) “this stupid life.”

A blackhearted but wayward yarn.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-30026-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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