A fever dream that's as hard to read as it is brilliant.

PARADAIS

A poor gardener teams up with a disturbed young man to horrifying results in this nightmarish novel.

With her second novel to be translated into English, following Hurricane Season (2020), Mexican author Melchor proves that she’s got nightmares to spare. This slim volume follows Polo, a gardener in a posh housing development who spends his evenings getting drunk and chain-smoking cigarettes with Franco, the grandson of two of the complex’s residents. Polo can’t stand Franco, not just because of his family’s wealth, but because of his incessant fantasizing about Marián Maroño, another resident of the development and the wealthy wife of a TV personality. Polo only attends their nightly meetings out of boredom and because he can’t stand his own home, where he lives with his hectoring mother and a pregnant cousin who won’t stop flirting with him. He doesn’t get Franco’s obsession with Marián, whom he considers “a whore, a gold digger” with an “unbearable family, a bunch of smug pricks who thought the world revolved around them.” Polo is so desperate to escape his home that when Franco reveals a plan that will both enrich Polo and realize Franco’s most far-fetched sexual fantasies, the young gardener says he’ll go along with it, perhaps unaware of how serious his drinking companion is: “Who could have known he really meant what he said?” Like Hurricane Season, this novel is told in long sentences and paragraphs, lending it a fever-dream quality that is, at its most intense, almost sickening. Also like its predecessor, it’s filled with harsh profanity, violence, and disturbing sex; even the most open-minded will find it difficult to read in parts. But there’s nothing exploitative here—it’s horrifying but never gratuitous; Melchor uses shock to lay bare issues of classism, misogyny, and the ravages of child abuse. Her prose, ably translated by Hughes, is dizzying but effective; it’s as if she’s holding the reader’s head and daring them to look away from the social problems she brings to light. This might be a deeply disconcerting novel, but it’s also a brave one.

A fever dream that's as hard to read as it is brilliant.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8112-3132-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

DREAM TOWN

An old-fashioned gumshoe yarn about Hollywood dreams and dead bodies.

Private investigator Aloysius Archer celebrates New Year’s Eve 1952 in LA with his gorgeous lady friend and aspiring actress Liberty Callahan. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb shows up and offers to hire him because “someone might be trying to kill me.” “I’m fifty a day plus expenses,” he replies, but money’s no obstacle. Later, he sneaks into Lamb’s house and stumbles upon a body, then gets knocked out by an unseen assailant. Archer takes plenty of physical abuse in the story, but at least he doesn’t get a bullet between the eyes like the guy he trips over. A 30-year-old World War II combat veteran, Archer is a righteous and brave hero. Luck and grit keep him alive in both Vegas and the City of Angels, which is rife with gangsters and crooked cops. Not rich at all, his one luxury is the blood-red 1939 Delahaye he likes to drive with the top down. He’d bought it with his gambling winnings in Reno, and only a bullet hole in the windscreen post mars its perfection. Liberty loves Archer, but will she put up with the daily danger of losing him? Why doesn’t he get a safe job, maybe playing one of LA’s finest on the hit TV show Dragnet? Instead, he’s a tough and principled idealist who wants to make the world a better place. Either that or he’s simply a “pavement-pounding PI on a slow dance to maybe nowhere.” And if some goon doesn’t do him in sooner, his Lucky Strikes will probably do him in later. Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the not-so-distant era when everybody smoked, Joe McCarthy hunted commies, and Marilyn Monroe stirred men’s loins. The 1950s weren’t the fabled good old days, but they’re fodder for gritty crime stories of high ideals and lowlifes, of longing and disappointment, and all the trouble a PI can handle.

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1977-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

more