PositiveThe Washington Post...[an] exciting first novel ... Like a slow-motion cinematographer, McLaughlin skillfully breaks down the actions of hunter and hunted into their constituent parts ... Bearskin, then, may call for a little patience from the reader. But stick with the novel and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best action writing in recent fiction.
RaveThe Washington PostAfter reading The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs, I think ... Brusatte’s mastery of his field, formidable explanatory powers and engaging style have combined to produce a masterpiece of science writing for the lay reader. I would add that you’ll find Rise and Fall fascinating even if you don’t give a damn about dinosaurs — but first, show me someone who doesn’t give a damn about dinosaurs.
PositiveThe Washington Post...[an] ingenious new thriller ... Koryta’s plotting is sure-footed, and the secrets he discloses, one by one, at the novel’s end are both surprising and plausible. My main reservation about “How It Happened” is the massive amount of violence inflicted on Rob, from which he bounces back too readily...the savagery and Rob’s amazing recoveries seem out of place in a novel that trades so briskly in finesse ... a book the reader won’t soon forget.
Jo Nesbø, Trans. by Don Bartlett
PositiveThe Washington PostOn the whole...Nesbo manages the balancing act of being true to the original play without slighting his own interests as a writer: bleak settings, loyalty (or the lack thereof) among crooks, clever escapes from tight spots, the affinities between policemen and the criminals they chase ... Nesbo has repaid what may have been a wild hunch on the part of his publisher.
MixedThe Washington PostIn Disappointment River Castner alternates an account of [river explorer] Mackenzie’s voyage with a chronicle of his own repeat in the summer of 2016 ... Castner is an uneven writer whose ultra-compressed sentences can leave the reader scratching his head ... At his best, however, Castner has the Conradian ability to make you see and feel ... Disappointment River abounds in vivid details.
PositiveThe Washington PostIn reading The Last Wild Men of Borneo, then, you might find yourself doing as I did: rushing through the chapters on Palmieri to get back to the adventures of Manser. His is quite a story — exciting, funny and tragic — and Hoffman tells it extraordinarily well.
RaveThe Washington Post...a grim and gripping tale of well-earned paranoia … Moore blends his story’s futuristic elements with more traditional tricks of the genre … The book’s tone is Chandleresque, the conspiracy worrying Carver and Jenner expands to Pynchonean proportions, and the physical ick they encounter might have oozed out of a Cronenberg movie. But on the whole, I’ll wager, The Night Market and its predecessors, The Poison Artist and The Dark Room, are like nothing you’ve ever read.
Christopher J. Yates
RaveThe Washington PostAt the beginning of Christopher J. Yates’s fine second novel, Grist Mill Road, Patrick ‘Patch’ McConnell looks back on the summer of 1982 … Yates...tack[s] back and forth in time, and from one narrator to another, with extraordinary skill … He demonstrates impressive knowledge of and affection for his adopted country while telling an even more compelling tale. Not least among his new book’s strengths is the light it sheds on the phenomenon of an otherwise law-abiding male giving in to volcanic rage.
PositiveThe Washington PostThomson concentrates less on the brothers than on the cinematic factory they built and ran ... Thomson takes palpable delight in celebrating the Warners’ stable of stars ...there are the countless examples of Thomson’s insight as filtered through his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema ... The standard biographical approach may not be Thomson’s main concern, but he doesn’t neglect it entirely ... You risk misunderstanding America if you don’t read him on the movies.
RaveThe Washington PostGrimes may not have been a plasterboard saint — he was once arrested for drunken driving — but those who knew him characterized him as a shy, gentle man who respected women. His conviction and imprisonment left him shattered. Rachlin vividly describes the anguish that would well up in Grimes again and again during his 24 years behind bars … Rachlin alternates chapters on Grimes’s plight with ones on outsiders’ pursuit of a novel idea: There ought to be a way to reopen old cases and exonerate the wrongfully convicted. It’s worth noting that some of the activists pressing this reform had been crime victims whose mistaken identifications sent innocent people to prison … In Rachlin’s skilled hands, Grimes’s story triggers indignation but also confers solace, Grimes being one of the solacing features. He bears no grudges.
PositiveThe Washington PostThere’s a lot going on in South Pole Station, and Shelby does better with some of its themes than with others. Cooper’s attempts to come to terms with her brother’s death are surprisingly unmoving, for example, while Sal’s pursuit of a theory as to how the world came into being makes for gripping reading ... But Shelby is very good on social interactions at the end of the earth, and South Pole Station crackles with energy whenever science takes center stage. She makes Sal’s abstruse theorizing both comprehensible and exciting.
Stieg Larsson, Translated by Reg Keeland
RaveThe Washington PostReaders of Dragon Tattoo will not be surprised to learn that Salander is indeed still withdrawn and irascible — and also highly effective as a computer snoop ... Yet Salander is a rather different person from the brilliant but touchy Goth of Dragon Tattoo ... The Swedish title of Dragon Tattoo is Men Who Hate Women. That motif runs through the new novel like a slushy undercurrent, all the more disturbing in light of Sweden's aforementioned sexual liberalism ... Here is a writer with two skills useful in entertaining readers royally: creating characters who are complex, believable and appealing even when they act against their own best interest; and parceling out information in a consistently enthralling way.
PositiveThe Washington PostThe Girl on the Train is well-written and ingeniously constructed — perhaps a bit too ingeniously.The first-person narrator is now Rachel, now Anna, now Megan, and some of Megan’s soliloquies date from long before her disappearance — yet are strategically inserted between present-day chapters related by Rachel and Anna, making the reader feel a bit manipulated. But the portrait of Rachel as a chronic drunk who just might save herself by playing detective is rich and memorable.
RaveThe Washington PostAt times, the movements of soldiers and civilians in the Bosnia of 2004 become almost too convoluted to follow, but don’t give up. Just when you’re wishing you had jotted down major plot points, a character will deliver a capsule summary of where things stand. Meanwhile, Turow devotees will enjoy the glimpses of stalwarts from previous Kindle County novels ... The real pleasure of the new novel lies not so much in solving the mystery of the massacre as in watching Turow knock down assumption after assumption made by Boom — and the reader. In fact, I can’t think of another novel in which so many givens end up being exposed as either honest mistakes or outright lies. Testimony is a tour de force of collapsing perceptions.
PositiveThe Washington PostMackay portrays organized crime as so enamored of hierarchy and meetings that one can almost imagine the gang going off on a retreat, with pastries and facilitators ... The front matter of Every Night I Dream of Hell includes a dramatis personae that runs to 40-odd entries. Not all of these will reach the end of the book alive, but by my count Malcolm Mackay has left himself with more than enough players to justify further visits to (paraphrasing William Faulkner) his own little postage stamp of soil.
RaveThe Washington PostHideo Yokoyama’s complex, ingenious and engrossing new novel, Six Four, has no serial killers, no femmes fatales, no locked-room murders, no torture, no sexually repressed villains, not even much in the way of forensic evidence. Instead we have one-sided telephone calls (one party does nothing but listen), bureaucratic infighting, snarled relations between the police department of a Japanese prefecture and the local media, and a strikingly original plot ... Jonathan Lloyd-Davies has translated Six Four with unobtrusive brio, and the publisher has obligingly provided a Cast of Characters to help us keep straight a small multitude of cops, wives, reporters and victims. As for the author, he possesses that elusive trait of a first-rate novelist: the ability to grab readers’ interest and never let go.
PositiveThe Washington PostKinzer gets a bit carried away in his last chapter, 'The Deep Hurt,' a potted survey of the interventions and invasions launched by the United States in the century-plus since 1898. It’s more sermon than history, and most readers will already be well aware of the author’s examples from their own memories or previous reading. What Kinzer does extraordinarily well, however, is to remind us how easily the pivotal decisions — the treaty vote, the Supreme Court case and others — could have gone the other way.
RaveThe Washington PostSince the cardinals deliberate in secret and tell no tales, Harris can give his imagination a long leash ... A surprise result is almost de rigueur for an election novel, and Harris does not disappoint. Not only do the cardinals choose a dark horse, but the new pontiff guards an astonishing secret. Regardless of whether you have faith in God, the Church, or neither, Conclave will keep you richly entertained.
MixedThe Washington PostAckroyd can write intelligently and evocatively about these films...But after at least 35 books, his productivity may be taking a toll. The prose is not always as crisp as it should be ... He might also have paid more attention to Hitchcock’s work as a whole ... more astute on his subject’s psychological makeup than on what makes us want to read about him: his approach to the films he made.
Martin Cruz Smith
PositiveThe Washington PostSmith conjures the time and place with a generous dose of what the novelist Evan Connell called 'luminous details' ... Some of the novel’s most piquant scenes center on the behavior of Mussolini and his hangers-on as their world collapses. Pretense, denial, wishful thinking — these are among the stages in the downfall of a duce. Smith tantalizes us with brief glimpses of Mussolini himself ... At times, though, Smith seems to let up on the pedal when he should be pressing down ... may not be the most heart-pounding thriller of the year, but its vivid treatments of a timeless trade and certain little-known aspects of World War II make it well worth your time.
PositiveThe Washington Post...let me assure you that Moor mixes these and other ingredients into a highly satisfying whole, neatly avoiding the pitfall of pretentiousness. On Trails is an engaging blend of travelogue, sociology, history and philosophy that might be summed up as a meditation on the centrality of trails to animal and human life.
Terry Tempest Williams
PositiveThe Washington Post...even with the book’s far-flung collaborators and long reach, the author’s trademark poetic prose dominates every page ... At times The Hour of Land reads as if it had been rushed into print for this year’s National Park Service centennial ... Williams saves a surprise for the end: a dollop of optimism. She portrays the fossil-fuel industry as making 'its last desperate cries' ... Yes, those sentiments may smack of wishful thinking. But after all it was a mentor of Williams’s, Wallace Stegner, who called wilderness 'the geography of hope.'”
MixedThe Washington Post[a] high-spirited and admirably thoroughly new book on FDR ... Brinkley styles Rightful Heritage as a sequel to The Wilderness Warrior, his account of Theodore Roosevelt’s equally stellar environmental record. In the new book, Brinkley can be superficial when it comes to legal issues — it’s not always clear what authority FDR is drawing on when he takes a pro-environmental stance.
PositiveThe Washington PostThe cast includes the obligatory femme fatale, and the plot is intricate enough to satisfy puzzle-minded readers. Occasionally, Kerr takes the easy way out ... But the novel’s pivotal conceit — that in the absurdist world of espionage, the best way to accomplish something might be to purposely botch an attempt to do the opposite — is so well handled that Kerr’s shortcuts hardly matter.
PositiveThe Washington PostFor all the richness of Siegel’s insights, at times he tries too hard...But for the most part, Siegel’s Groucho Marx is trenchant and provocative. I would join any club that has this book in its library.
RaveThe Washington PostHarris seems to have mastered every telling aspect of the world and the conflicts he dramatizes, from the excitement occasioned by each new account of Caesar’s far-off triumphs ('whenever his Commentaries were posted .?.?. crowds would gather and remain there all day reading of his exploits,') to the strategy for conferring executive clemency (above all, make the grantor look good).