MixedThe New York Time Book ReviewThis is Zoe’s story, even if Hailey is the one with her foot on the gas and her unsteady hand on the wheel. Henkel is at her best digging into Zoe’s quest to establish her artistic identity as well as her sexual one. While she might follow Hailey’s lead, she is on a journey of her own, navigating queerness and grief while contending with a world that doesn’t really care about how you feel, only about how cool you are. Henkel knows that it is when you are struggling to define yourself that you are most vulnerable to the predations of others ... Zoe’s Berlin is summoned in exciting and visceral detail. Henkel deploys a spectacular range of senses from the gaudy sight of costumes at a theater sale to the sweaty, orgiastic tangle on the dance floor of a sex club, the damp chill of everything to the grinding headache in the aftermath of too much cut-rate booze. The grungy student life feels all too real ... Secondary characters come and go at a remove — never quite coming into focus, which may be intentional. The effect is much like scrolling through Facebook, linking a face to a few scattershot details, which is an interesting and accurate way to reflect on those transitory acquaintances from your very early 20s, people who pass through but don’t stick ... The truly monstrous delights of Other People’s Clothes come from Zoe and Hailey’s twisted friendship and Hailey’s mantra that \'art is what you can get away with\'...Megan Abbott, the queen of toxic female entanglements, has proved that there’s enough rancid meat on the bones of friendships such as Zoe and Hailey’s to make additional drama seem like overkill. And this is where Other People’s Clothes begins to falter ... The last quarter of the book is jammed with a cascade of violence, hairpin twists and wild revelations that land with the mock gravitas of a Law & Order episode. The effect, I imagine, is like something out of one of Beatrice Becks’s airport novels, which is a shame because up until that moment Henkel’s own book was so much more. I found myself wishing that Henkel had delivered a story worthy of the real Amanda Knox instead of her tabloid counterpart.
Emily St. John Mandel
RaveThe Oprah Magazine...an icy-smooth tale crafted in crystalline prose ... Mandel delicately illuminates the devastation wreaked on the fraud’s victims while brilliantly teasing out the hairsbreadth moments in which a person can seamlessly slide into moral corruption, as both Vincent and Paul—an addict in and out of recovery—do, rudderless The Glass Hotel isn’t so much plot driven as it is coiled—a taut braid of lives undone by Alkaitis’ and others’ grifts. Unlike its predecessor...the book relies not on a dystopian vision of the future but on where we are now: negotiating slippery ethics and questionable compromises, and the liminal space between innocence and treachery.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewJulie Mayhew’s adult debut...is anything but snappy; it’s a lengthy, murky mystery set on a remote English island ... Impossible Causes also jumps back and forth in time in ways that can be as foggy as the landscape the author evokes in passages of archaic prose. Yet the picture that emerges is an important one, concerning itself with the external governance of women’s bodies, their actions and their fates — a theme not confined to the remote Lark ... In the end, the truth of the matter is all too common, but it takes on a particular resonance among the innocent islanders of Mayhew’s creation.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe book is a quieter affair than its white-knuckled predecessor, more concerned with personal loss and emotional damage than with the spate of murders claiming the lives of the displaced youths at its center ... For the majority of the novel, Denfeld relegates the killings to the background, employing them as a low-frequency current that underscores the everyday horrors as well as the surprising instances of beauty of life on the streets. Murder is just another risk of being young, homeless and alone; and yet Celia feels safer on the streets than she does at home, with her opioid-addict mother and her stepfather, who was acquitted of molesting her. She seeks refuge in the public library, where she immerses herself in a fantasy world of butterflies ... Celia’s reliance on this haven is convincing, but Denfeld overdoes the metaphor ... Denfeld spells it out instead of trusting the reader to make sense of Celia’s need to rewrite the nightmare of her circumstances ... Denfeld summons the lives of abandoned girls in frank, matter-of-fact detail, never glossing over the filth or violence or the myriad ways in which society lets them down. But ultimately The Butterfly Girl is a crime novel with a murderer on the loose. In the final pages, Denfeld speeds up the narrative, creating a propulsive denouement that brings Naomi and Celia together and will satisfy adherents to the conventions of the genre.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe book opens with a nasty punch, a visceral scene that we later discover is what tipped the scales of Rona’s life and caused her descent. Or was it a descent? Innes’s approach to her subject matter examines this question with care, presenting the prostitutes as women with rich inner lives and interests ... contains many more instances of gritty brilliance following its dramatic start ... can be oversexed at times — not everything in a novel needs to be on brand — especially when it comes to Fiona herself, whose prurient imaginings of prostitutes’ lives may well irritate some readers. The same is true of her quest to understand the power her sister might derive from selling sex. There are ways Fiona might do this without, you know, doing it ... These quibbles aside, Fishnet is one of those rare and refreshing crime novels in which the victim isn’t victimized, and where her life and community are as important as the mystery of her disappearance.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewHand delivers another brilliant mystery ... Pin is a first-rate heroine...Hand juxtaposes Pin’s concealment of her gender with the killer’s obsession with dressing dolls, making Pin’s anxiety about her identity all the more resonant ... packed with evocative historical detail of Chicago and its amusement park ... Hand’s rendering of Darger’s Tourettic tics is just one of many deft touches in her wonderfully imaginative and richly delivered narrative ... While the amusement park setting enables Hand to ramp up the tension with a toolbox of strange and creepy people and places to play with, she never falls prey to pointless sensationalism. This makes Pin’s story — her quest to discover the truth, not just about what happened in Hell Gate, but about who she is and how she might find a place in the world — more vivid.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThere’s something reassuring about sliding into the hands of a seasoned professional like Unger. You know what you’re getting: in this case another well-crafted psychological thriller in which the torments of the past return to wreak havoc in the present. You know you’re going to get a solid plot, and characters with enough feints and flourishes to keep the pages turning themselves ... Fans of Unger’s books won’t mind that this one sometimes stretches credulity as it races toward a juicy climax. But new readers will certainly appreciate what she does outside the whodunit plotline. There is something unexpectedly brilliant in The Stranger Inside, and it’s not Rain’s struggles with her past; it’s her struggle with her present as a new mother ... Unger’s weaving of Rain’s maternal, professional and even marital conflicts into the fabric of her thriller feels so natural and effortless that it’s easy to imagine mothers cheering upon reading their experiences so perfectly depicted ... Unger avoids the cliché of portraying Rain’s husband as unfeeling, unhelpful or uncaring ... This duality is the genius of solid crime fiction, and when your work is as assured as Unger’s, it’s O.K. for the secondary plot to threaten to upstage the crime.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... superb ... It’s a well-worn cliché of book jacket copy to say that place is as important a character as any of the people in a book, and yet the women who populate Phillips’s novel are so intrinsically and intelligently identified with their region that it’s impossible to understand or even consider them without Phillips’s precise evocation of Kamchatka. She describes the region with a cartographer’s precision and an ethnographer’s clarity ... There will be those eager to designate Disappearing Earth a thriller by focusing on the whodunit rather than what the tragedy reveals about the women in and around it. And if there is a single misstep in Phillips’s nearly flawless novel, it arrives with the tidy ending that seems to serve the needs of a genre rather than those of this particularly brilliant novel. But a tidy ending does not diminish Phillips’s deep examination of loss and longing, and it is a testament to the novel’s power that knowing what happened to the sisters remains very much beside the point.