Jennifer Egan is best known for her 2006 novel The Keep, but her works also include a short story collection and two previous novels. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Egan is recognizable for her genre-bending style that lays a fresh backdrop to vivid realism. Her 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad has been critically lauded and beloved by her many fans, with highlights that include a section of narrative made up brilliantly of Powerpoint slides and an anthropological take on a wealthy older man bringing his grad student girlfriend on an African safari with his two children. Creating a whole that is larger than a collection of linked stories, Goon Squad slides easily from the voices of San Francisco punks Bennie, Alice, Scotty and Jocelyn in the 1980s, to a twenty-something kleptomaniac, Sasha, with her therapist in New York, and then to Sasha’s daughter, many years later, growing up in an uncanny, terrifying and eerily believable imagined near-future.
The characters’ interlinked lives, spanning half a century, create a dizzying picture of cultural evolution and individual decay, in a postmodern epic well deserving of the buzz and critical acclaim Egan has enjoyed thus far.
– Kara Rota
(288 p. / Knopf / $25.95)
After reading Tana French’s gripping second novel, The Likeness, I should have expected that her new Dublin Murder Squad mystery would keep me equally in its grasp. Faithful Place, named after the Dublin neighborhood where detective Frank Mackey grew up in a tangle of fighting parents, drunken brawls and family secrets, does not disappoint. It holds at its core the gorgeous mystery of first love, full of infinite promise gone horribly wrong. Frank, who has stayed away from his family and childhood home for twenty-two years, is drawn back by a frantic phone call from the one sister he hasn’t shut out, Jackie, and news of evidence that might shed light on the disappearance of Rosie Daly, a spitfire nineteen-year-old, on the night she and Frank had planned to elope to England and start a new life together working for rock bands.
Caught between his identities as undercover cop and prodigal son, Frank is forced to confront the consequences of the possibility that, rather than standing him up on that night long ago, Rosie had been intercepted and their teenage dream violently put to an end. When Frank’s young daughter Holly begins to ask precocious questions that involve her in a mystery begun long before her birth, Frank is reminded that, as William Faulkner put it, “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Tana French is the bestselling author of In the Woods, which won the Edgar, Barry, Macavity, and Anthony awards, and of The Likeness. She grew up in Ireland, Italy, Malawi, and the United States, and trained as an actor at Trinity College, Dublin. She lives in Dublin with her husband and daughter.
– Kara Rota
(416 p. / Viking / $25.95)
The Outside Boy, memoirist Jeanine Cummins’ successful first venture into fiction, explores life in Ireland in 1959 for Christy, a young Traveller boy. Cummins has crafted her eleven-year-old narrator into a vibrant and complicated figure. She creates a unique voice for him: one that borrows from the Pavee Gypsy vernacular but is still accessible to readers and fitting for Christy’s startlingly astute observations. Cummins also does a fine job of vividly describing life on the road and blending precocious humor with the more serious aspects of Christy’s story. In one instance, he amends a “No Tinkers” sign meant to ward off his family so that it reads “No Thinkers.”
Christy is, in fact, a very deep thinker with a lot to figure out as hairline cracks start to form in the story of what he knows to be his life. As he makes brave steps to discover his past, the book fluctuates rapidly between moments of triumph and moments of grief, between the mundanely beautiful events of the end of childhood and the more extraordinary accomplishments of a small hero. Is Christy’s story the most realistic? No. But The Outside Boy is engrossing, full of wonder, and will be best enjoyed if readers can, as Cummins requests in her Author’s Note, suspend their disbelief for a little while.
– Sheila Langan
(384 p. / New American Library / $15.00)
Rosemary Herbert’s thriller Front Page Teaser, released October 1, follows the worlds of forensic investigation and tabloid newspapers as the investigative minds of these worlds collide in a rush to solve the case of missing Ellen Johansson. Front Page Teaser moves through the Boston Celtic music scene with Dr. Cormac Kinnaird, the forensic expert in the case and love interest for protagonist Liz Higgins.
The story begins with the usual thriller punch as Liz Higgins, a columnist for a gossip paper in Boston, finds herself with a young girl she had once worked with in a blood-spattered kitchen, the girl’s mother missing before police promptly escort the journalist away from the crime scene. The story then unfolds as the search for a body, a clue or any indication of the woman’s whereabouts leads Higgins out of Boston on a wild chase to fulfill her promise to the little girl to find her mother.
– Tara Dougherty
(253 p. / Down East Books /$14.95)