ROSE MADDER

King's 30th novel (Insomnia, 1994, etc.) gets off to a careful, grand start but quickly turns to a half-pound of story to five pounds of stuffing, or tedium triumphant. Still, this one may find King hitting the ball not just out of the park but around the globe. After 14 years of marriage to biter and wife-beater Detective Norman Daniels, Rose McLendon Daniels steals her husband's ATM card and runs off to another city. But Daniels's job is finding people, and as a biter he's even more bent than the wife-beating police-chief in Nelson DeMille's Spencerville; like his, Daniels's verbal rage allows no range to monolithic villainy. In a far-away hockshop, Rose trades her engagement ring for a mystery-ridden painting of a woman in a crimson (rose-madder) chiton with her back to the viewer (one thinks of Wyeth's Christina's World), which she hangs in a new apartment found for her by the Daughters and Sisters, a battered women's group. She also falls for softspoken Bill Steiner, the shop's young pawn-dealer, who courts her on his motorcycle and opens her to new worlds. Rose also finds new worlds as a Liz Taylor-sound-alike reader for audiobooks, and in her painting, which magically allows her to enter its dense detail. We follow Daniels's course as he unearths clue after clue and bites several straw figures to death in warm-ups for his first big bite out of Rose. When it comes, Rose discovers that an armlet worn by the figure of Rose Madder in the painting has given her left arm the strength of Wonder Woman. Even so, she and Bill race through moonlight into the painting, while Daniels, as enraged as a bull, chases after them.... Magic against wife-beating — sounds attractive? But as events thin out, what's left are pages and pages of dull, falsely pitched lowbrow dialogue, abuse, biting, symbolic fantasy, and feminist tub-thumping. Overwhelmingly uninventive — and if Liz Taylor does the audiobook, believe in miracles.

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-85869-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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