Kim’s gifts may need a bigger canvas than the short form allows to spread his wings. Still, this is a lively, enthralling...

DIARY OF A MURDERER

These tales of obsession reverberate with the hard, cool, and dryly comic voice of one of South Korea’s most versatile writers (I Hear Your Voice, 2017, etc.).

In the title story, which takes up practically half of this svelte collection, Kim Byeongsu is entering his eighth decade afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Because his mind has shattered into fragments that wander or collide, he is compelled to write down everything and anything that comes into his head before it vanishes into the ether. Observations, random encounters, physical details, reminiscences, pieces of poetry—they all somehow find their ways into his journal. When he’s able to connect some of these jottings, Byeongsu determines that there’s a serial killer at loose in his neighborhood and that the next victim could be his daughter, Eunhui. Such reasoning is based on personal experience: Byeongsu himself was a career serial killer who managed to evade the law for three decades until he quit and took up…bowling? Maybe it was a car accident that shook him out of “the work that [he's] best at.” He’s not sure, and neither are we. Creeping anxiety and Kafkaesque humor meld in this deceptively intricate novella (the foundation of a 2017 movie, Memoir of a Murderer, co-scripted by its author), goading you into believing just about anything Byeongsu says, no matter how disreputable his past or unreliable his memory. The other three stories retain the first one’s chilliness (sustained nicely with help from Lee’s translation), which comes across somewhat diffused in different, but no less jolting, contexts. In “The Origin of Life,” a liaison between former childhood friends distorts itself into what appears at first to be a romantic triangle but coalesces into a more rhomboidlike shape. “Missing Child” ramps up the intimacy of terror (and vice versa) in chronicling a kidnap case, while “The Writer” frolics with sex, lies, and philosophy in tracking the crash and burn of its title character.

Kim’s gifts may need a bigger canvas than the short form allows to spread his wings. Still, this is a lively, enthralling introduction to his eclectic artistry.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-54542-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more