RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewCosby worked the outlaw side of the crime/suspense genre. In this new one he’s written a crackling good police procedural ... Cosby delivers a fine climax. Then, in an epilogue, he serves up a final treat that’s worth the whole trip. So: a well-told novel of crime and detection. There are plenty of them on the market. What sets this one apart, what gives it both grit and texture, is its unerring depiction of small-town rural life and the uneasy (and sometimes violent) interactions between Charon’s white and Black citizens ... Cosby keeps his eye on the story and the pedal to the metal ... I found Cosby’s detail work fresh and exhilarating. Without resorting to country music clichés, he gets everything right ... It’s a far better novel than Cosby’s earlier books; his confidence as a writer has increased as he climbs the learning curve of his trade.
PositiveNew York Times Book ReviewCeleste Ng’s dystopian America is milder [than other dysopias], which makes it more believable — and hence, more upsetting ... Firmly written and well executed ... Because Ng’s storytelling is so calm — serene, almost — the occasional explosions of violence are authentically horrifying ... I won’t give away the splendid conclusion of Ng’s book; suffice it to say, the climax deals with the power of words, the power of stories and the persistence of memory ... There are peculiar lapses that must be noted. Covid-19 doesn’t exist in Our Missing Hearts, although there can be no doubt that the pandemic has given rise to dark conspiracies having to do with Wuhan Province ... Ng likewise ignores social media ... Ng succeeds in spite of these occasional blind spots, partly because her outrage is contained and focused, and mostly because she is often captivated by the very words she is using.
MixedThe Times (UK)Higgins is exemplary in describing many of these extraordinary machinations. He has interviewed hundreds of people associated with Tesla, both past and present. He knows the financial story like the back of his hand ... Yet for all the details — and glorious profanities — in Higgins’s book, I’m left thinking that it’s all a bit too Wall Street. Higgins rightly criticises General Motors for the underwhelming Chevrolet Volt but he has little to say about non-American offerings such as the Nissan Leaf, the Renault Zoe or the latest luxurious electric models from the big German manufacturers. Other than Tesla’s involvement, he is silent on the rapidly growing Chinese electric vehicle market...He has little to say about Musk’s dream of storing renewable energy in batteries as a way of revolutionising our daily lives both at home and while travelling in one of his future autonomous vehicles ... And, because the book is biased towards finance — would Tesla survive, would it ever make a profit? — the human aspects of the story are too easily brushed aside. Musk himself is something of an enigma ... Higgins has written entertainingly about the financial Bet of the Century. With a broader horizon, however, he might have covered one of the Stories of the Century.
PositiveThe Times (UK)Tett thinks we can — and should — shine the spotlight on our own peculiar and exotic natures. Admittedly, this creates some philosophical problems, most obviously how we can best ensure that our subjective observations are objective. Nevertheless, it’s easy enough to sympathise with Tett’s position ... Refreshingly, Tett is not afraid of self-admonishment ... Tett is highly critical of my \'tribe\' of economists, demanding that we stop focusing on money and markets and spend a lot more time considering “externalities” such as the environment. This is unfair, perhaps reflecting Tett’s excessive exposure to economists and financiers expounding narrow-minded \'Davos-think\' ... Tett’s book may be anthropological, but it also embraces a style of accessible economic writing that, sadly, went out of fashion as the mathematicians and their models took over. Anthro-Vision reminds me of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (1958) and The New Industrial State (1967). Some economists may regard this as a criticism. I can think of no higher praise.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewLauren Beukes’s fifth novel is a smartly written thriller that opens with a satisfying bang ... Beukes is too wise and story-oriented to wham away at ideas that have been thoroughly explored, sometimes at tedious length, on cable news and social media. She lets her tale do the talking, and the results are quite splendid. This is your basic neo-noir, coast-to-coast chase novel, and Beukes, who is from South Africa, sees America with the fresh eyes of an outsider ... Cole and Miles/Mila...are being chased by the Department of Men, a kind of female Gestapo dedicated to a new law called reprohibition that basically forbids women to get pregnant by the few men still available to do the job. This might seem like a shaky proposition in a world close to becoming one sex only, but Beukes almost makes it sensible ... Reprohibition offers Beukes the chance to incorporate all sorts of interesting (and often amusing) possibilities into her fiction, although it would be wrong to call any of them social commentary. The manless world Beukes imagines is seen from the corner of the eye and enriches the story without taking it over ... There’s an interlude between Parts 1 and 2 of the story I could have done without because it stops the action cold with a lot of geeky science hoo-ha, but one paragraph does add some needed perspective ... Beukes writes with such verve and mordant wit. How can you not fall in love with a book where the P.P.E.-wearing scientists tasked with discovering a vaccine are called plague-o-nauts and there’s a government bureau dealing with PMdFs, or Previously Male-dominated Fields?
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewWhat makes this book special, even extraordinary, is that the crossword puzzle aspect is secondary. Lippman, who is the closest writer America has to Ruth Rendell, is after bigger game ... Lippman’s point — which takes this book far beyond the works of Agatha Christie and Rex Stout, although Lippman does not fail to honor her genre roots — is that Maddie also pays, and in blood ... Lippman walks a fine line, balancing a cracking good mystery with the story of a not always admirable woman working to stand on her own. Lippman never loses sight of Maddie’s options and her obstacles ... she never loses touch with the twin mysteries at the center of her story ... Lippman answers all outstanding questions with a totally cool double twist that your reviewer — a veteran reader of mysteries — never saw coming.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"Here’s a things-go-bad story Thomas Hardy could have written in his prime, although the Hardy version would probably contain no lines such as ‘I looked like the lowlife in a zombie movie who isn’t going to make it past the first half-hour’ … So far, so Agatha Christie (who is even name-checked in passing). You have the murder victim, another skanger (although a rich one) whose passing we need not mourn; you have the small pool of possible suspects; you have the manor house with the walled-in garden where the body was discovered. But an Agatha Christie novel might run 250 pages or so. The Witch Elm is twice that length, and I’m relieved to report that those added pages aren’t just filler ... Characters aside, the book is lifted by French’s nervy, almost obsessive prose. Although they are of different sexes and nationalities, when I read Tana French I’m always reminded of David Goodis. She has that same need to go over it, and over it and over it again, like a farmer who can’t plow the field just once but must go at it from every point of the compass, sweating over the wheel of his tractor, not satisfied until every clod has been crumbled away.”
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewPerrotta has delivered a troubling disquisition on how ordinary people react to extraordinary and inexplicable events, the power of family to hurt and to heal, and the unobtrusive ease with which faith can slide into fanaticism … Perrotta’s novel opens three years after a rapturelike event has whisked millions of people off the face of the earth. Just how many millions Perrotta doesn’t specify, but it can’t have been too many, because the phones still work and Starbucks still dispenses coffee by the grande … Perrotta suggests that in times of real trouble, extremism trumps logic and dialogue becomes meaningless. Read as a metaphor for the social and political splintering of American society after 9/11, it’s a chillingly accurate diagnosis.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review...[an] exercise in self-regarding arrogance and self-pity ... And still, I sort of liked it. As with some of the more gruesome Thomas Hardy novels (Jude the Obscure comes to mind), reading Mother Land is like watching a slow-motion car crash ... Theroux can tell a story when not occupied with his narrator’s need to enumerate old hurts and settle old scores ... Mother Land is an exercise in mean-spirited score-settling. It’s also fun ... Is style enough? Shall we read this Bible-size rant for its prose? The reader must decide for him- or herself. As for me, I enjoyed Mother Land against my will.
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewThe Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind. I read it with that mixture of terror and excitement I feel watching a pitcher carry a no-hitter into the late innings. You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but in the case of The Goldfinch, they never do … Surprisingly few novelists write well of grief, but Tartt — whose language is dense, allusive and so vivid it’s intoxicating — does it as well as it can be done … Tartt depicts the friendship of these two cast-adrift adolescent boys with a clarity of observation I would have thought next to impossible for a writer who was never part of that closed male world … The Goldfinch is a triumph with a brave theme running through it: art may addict, but art also saves us from ‘the ungainly sadness of creatures pushing and struggling to live.’
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAfter making my way through several recent novels written in tiresome hey-look-at-me prose, The Wonder arrived as a welcome relief. Donoghue’s prose is as sturdy and serviceable as a good pair of brogans, but never nondescript. There are occasional flashes of lyricism but Donoghue’s main purpose here is story, story, story, and God bless her for it ... Anna’s plight and Lib’s efforts to save her (initially reluctant, ultimately frantic) make this book, flawed though it is in some respects, impossible to put down ... less palatable is the distracting romance Donoghue loads onto the second half of her tale ... flaws, but not fatal ones. For the most part, The Wonder is a fine, fact-based historical novel, an old-school page turner.