A subtly ominous story about voyeurism and the danger of losing yourself in someone else.

THE WOMAN IN THE PURPLE SKIRT

One woman obsessively tracks the movements of another.

The narrator of Japanese novelist Imamura’s deliciously creepy English-language debut likes to watch a woman in her neighborhood known as “the Woman in the Purple Skirt.” The Woman in the Purple Skirt doesn’t do anything particularly interesting. She sits on a bench in the park; she goes to the bakery; she is intermittently employed. But there’s something about her that makes it “impossible not to pay attention,” as the narrator explains. “Nobody could ignore her.” The same isn’t true of the narrator, who refers to herself as “the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan.” Gradually, as Imamura’s taut narrative unfolds, we realize just how much of her own life the narrator is willing to give up or, indeed, destroy for the sake of her obsession. She arranges for the Woman in the Purple Skirt to get a job at the hotel where she works cleaning rooms. They’ve never actually spoken, but our narrator imagines she’ll now get the chance to introduce herself. Instead, the Woman in the Purple Skirt quickly becomes popular with the cliquey other workers, and the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan remains as invisible as ever. Meanwhile, she keeps following the Woman in the Purple Skirt: listening in on her conversations, tracking her purchases, and waiting outside her apartment. Imamura’s pacing is as deft and quick as the best thrillers, but her prose is also understated and quietly subtle. Occasionally the dialogue can feel somewhat canned: “She’s quick about her work,” one of the other hotel workers says, and the response is, “Uh-huh. She sure is.” Still, this is a minor complaint of a novel that is, overall, a resounding success.

A subtly ominous story about voyeurism and the danger of losing yourself in someone else.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313602-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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An urgent, poignant, and terrifying thriller. More please.

WHEN SHE WAS GOOD

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven returns in Robotham’s gripping follow-up to Good Girl, Bad Girl (2019).

Cyrus has finally tracked down Sacha Hopewell, the London special constable who carried little Evie Cormac out of a house of horrors seven years ago, where a man was tortured and killed trying to protect her. The little girl, whose true identity remains a mystery, was dubbed Angel Face and made a ward of the court; eventually she was given the name Evie and moved to Langford Hall, a secure children’s home. Meanwhile, Sacha and her family were threatened, and she eventually fled London. Cyrus hopes Sacha can shed light on what really happened to Evie in the days following her rescue and offers to take Sacha to see Evie, but she declines. Cyrus is then called to the scene of retired police officer Hamish Whitmore’s suspected suicide, where he finds evidence that suggests Whitmore was murdered. Cyrus advises his old friend Detective Lenny Parvel to treat the death as a homicide. Cyrus soon finds out that Whitmore had been investigating a series of child murders attributed to recently deceased pedophile Eugene Green, and, shockingly, the last name on his list is Angel Face. Whitmore’s family also reveals that a man with pale blue eyes and a half-moon scar, claiming to be police, had already questioned them. That’s no police officer, and it’s not long before Cyrus, with Sacha’s help, is racing to find out Evie’s true identity in a bid to save her from a powerful group of people who want her silenced at any cost. Once again, Robotham delves into some very (very) dark territory, and the horror steadily mounts as Evie, who has a strange ability to tell when people are lying, finally reveals what really happened to her before her rescue. Cyrus and Evie, both trauma survivors, are quirky, complex, and endlessly fascinating creations, and Robotham’s meticulously crafted tale is propelled by their alternating first-person narratives. Readers will be putty in this supremely talented author’s capable hands.

An urgent, poignant, and terrifying thriller. More please.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982103-63-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

TOM CLANCY TARGET ACQUIRED

Bentley keeps Jack Ryan Jr.’s life exciting in this latest grand-scale Tom Clancy adventure.

Ryan is in Tel Aviv on an “asset-validation exercise” for a private company referred to as The Campus, and he takes time to hang out at the beach. There, he sees a woman with a child who he can tell is autistic, and he saves her from a knife-wielding attacker. She’s flummoxed; who’d want to hurt her? When mother and son leave, Ryan wants to return the boy’s dropped Captain America toy. “What could go wrong with that?” he muses naïvely. Only three hell-raising threats in one day. Almost immediately he meets agents from Israeli security, Shin Bet. Who is he? What’s he doing there? But though he doesn’t lie about his name, no one ever exclaims, “Wow, you have the same name as the U.S. president. Any connection?” Anyway, Chinese State Security is also interested in the woman, and Jack doesn’t know why. And then mother and son are kidnapped. True to the Clancy style, what begins as the attempted return of a toy mushrooms into a threat of global conflict—“no good deed goes unpunished” is an apt cliché. Other enemies include Iran's Quds Force, an apocalyptic cult—and some smart jihadis, because “the dumb jihadis died a long time ago.” Ryan is a fierce warrior when the need arises, and he refuses a direct order to return to the U.S.: “Sorry, sir…no can do. I’ve got two innocents still at risk—a mother and child.” So even when the bad guys try to crucify him, “nobody did cornered junkyard dog better than Jack.” Meanwhile, an airborne threat may destroy Tel Aviv. The story has some nice wordplay, with helicopters “clawing for altitude like homesick angels,” and the F-35 being “part ballerina, part racehorse, and all killer.” While on the ground “blood flowed and bones broke,” and a female fighter jock has the final say.

Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18813-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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