Skip this one and read Wide Sargasso Sea instead.

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS

Jane Eyre gets a modern, Alabama-based reboot in Hawkins’ latest thriller.

Dog walker to the elite and sometime petty thief, Jane will do what she must to survive. Growing up as a witness to violence in various foster homes, she’s tougher than she looks. Then she meets Eddie Rochester, who's recently lost his wife, Bertha, and his wife’s best friend, Blanche Ingraham, in a tragic boating accident, their bodies never found. Dating Eddie gives Jane the social capital to move from dog walker to equal within the neighborhood, and soon, copying the style and mannerisms of the status-conscious women around her, she is welcome on their committees and at their parties. Bea Rochester, who was the glossy creator of a fashion brand, gets her own sections of the story as well. Given the names, it quickly becomes clear that Hawkins is basing the novel on Jane Eyre. While reimagining the classics is always fair game, there must be a point to it; that is, the original text must in some way enhance or add complexity or interest to the new text, and vice versa. In this case, Hawkins’ novel falls short. Given the title and all the existing criticism of Charlotte Brontë’s original, Hawkins had the opportunity to explore the ideas of feminism and exoticism through a 21st-century lens; to critique ideas of masculine strength and mental health; to overlay a more complex idea of family and parenting and status. Instead, the characters are themselves mere caricatures whose only claims to having layers are the names they share with the originals. The Gothic creepiness is mostly lost; the subtext is nonexistent; and perhaps worst of all, Jane, though never perhaps a heroine to emulate, loses the opportunity to change and evolve. With no one to feel for, or even cheer for, the novel offers little true enjoyment and never really takes off as an original mystery.

Skip this one and read Wide Sargasso Sea instead.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-24549-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 71

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?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more