Hired Men

Sometimes I end up reading books that are so far out of the genres I usually read it’s refreshing. That’s the case with these two novels about hired men who through their jobs end up in some pretty unusual situations. Both are a quick read and might be good options for the man in your life this Labor Day weekend. Or try them yourself!

 

hired men

HarperCollins, June 2014

Gibson is a rising star in the world of food in New York until an escalating drug habit costs him his restaurant, his wife and his freedom. When he makes it out of jail and is paroled to a halfway house it is his manager’s girlfriend who suggests to him that he move to L.A. to become the private chef of a world famous rock star known as Monster. And so Gibson goes, in Jervey Tervalons’s new novel Monster’s Chef. He leaves behind his life and moves onto Monster’s massive, isolated compound (known as Monster’s Lair) in the mountains of the Santa Ynez valley in California. Despite the isolation and oddities of his new boss, Gibson adjusts to the life, right up until a young man is found dead on the lawn near his bungalow. Suddenly, privacy and the quiet life are gone as Gibson is confronted by local police as a suspect.

 It is only as Gibson enters Monster’s inner sanctum in the second half of Monster’s Chef that things start coming together in a way that feels more like reality than fiction. As Tervalon fleshes in more of Monster’s details, namely his being a black man who bleaches his skin for whiteness, his penchant for entertaining an ever-changing cast of young blonde boys, his fondness for unusual diets and supposedly life enhancing treatments, a breathy high voice…well, need I go on? The parallels grow to the point one can almost hear the lawyers lining up to get at the author because by the novel’s wild end there is little doubt who this freakish former singer is supposed to be.  When Gibson agrees to help Rita (the artificially inseminated mother of Monster’s baby) rescue her child from Monster, the finale moves beyond reality and even fiction to a fantastical crescendo that will either work or leave you wondering what you just read. For me, it felt like the only conclusion to a tale that, wherever its source originated, can only end badly.


hired men

Harper/HarperCollins, August 2014

Why I wanted it so much I almost couldn’t say. There was a draw to the simplicity and old-fashionedness to the vocation, to being a servant almost. I got to bathe in the reflected glow of their luxury while assuring myself I was not so shallow as actually to want such things. 

Jess is a young man living in Michigan, getting his second college degree and writing music reviews, when an old friend from Portland lets him know that an up-and-coming pro basketball player named Calyph needs a chauffeur. Despite having no real experience he takes the job when it’s offered. Chris Leslie-Hynan’s new novel Ride Around Shining begins with Jess being summoned to a party at his new boss’s house to pick up his wife. While there he brushes into an ice sculpture that crashes on Calyph’s leg. He walks away before anyone notices and takes the wife where she wants to go, which happens to be a small house she’s buying to move into and leave her husband. Jess takes a flyer and leaves it inside another book Calyph has asked him to look at.

 Jess is a slippery character, an odd concoction of obsessive fan, compulsive liar and possibly, a man in love, but, with who? He appears to be one of those people who creates drama in a person’s life in the hopes of swooping in and fixing things. Unfortunately, he only appears to be good at the breaking part and wreaks havoc on Calyph’s life by causing a season-ending injury and his wife’s leaving him. It takes an unfortunate misreading of a social situation to bring Jess’ nearness to the high life to a speedy conclusion.

 Much of Ride Around Shining is spent amongst the Portland Trail Blazers in their off-season, meaning Leslie-Hynan writes of parties and life at a level most of us will never even glimpse. There are palatial houses, parties of Hefneresque proportions, and special favors granted to all the athletes by everyone they come in contact with. As Jess insinuates himself into Calyph’s life as more than just a chauffeur it is Leslie-Hynan’s prose mimicing the patois of urban mega-star athletes that gives the novel the feel of riding in an Escalade, through the night, waiting for whatever might happen.

These books be purchased online at:

Ride Around Shining
by Chris Leslie-Hynan
Powells.com


The Elliott Bay Book Company

 

Just One Evil Act

just one evil act

NAL Trade, paperback release August 2014

Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers is not a woman well-known for her fashion sense or healthy living. Neither is she able to keep her mouth shut when she disagrees with what is being said—no matter who is saying it. What she has in excess is loyalty and when a dear friend’s daughter is taken away by her mother; she ignores all warnings and advice to stay out of it and gets involved. As is often the case it is her erstwhile, well-bred boss, Detective Thomas Lynley who ends up running interference for her and trying to get to the bottom of things using proper protocol. This is just the first part of Elizabeth George’s latest Lynley novel, Just One Evil Act.

When the girl’s mother shows up in London, blaming her husband for stealing the girl, the tables are turned except he has no knowledge of her disappearance from the Tuscan villa where she has been living with her mother and her lover. Suddenly, this goes from being a domestic dispute to a kidnapping. Unfortunately, although the child is British the case must be handled by the Italian authorities and it is here, that George’s superlative research skills come into play and, quite frankly, the Italian criminal justice system takes a shellacking (remember Amanda Knox?). With only man interested in finding the truth (and the little girl), the British send over Lynley to liaise between the parents and the Italian police. For every bit of information he uncovers there is even more being hidden.

Without giving away too much of the plot, suffice it to say that Just One Evil Act does not end with the discovery of Hadiyyah. Instead, there is a suspicious death and a whole new cast of suspects, at which point Havers throws her career to the wind and departs for Tuscany without departmental approval. Will her reckless attitude and unkempt appearance work with the Italian police or is she going to make a bad situation worse?

After seventeen Lynley novels, it is easy to imagine that these characters are people who actually exist, possibly living at George’s house. Barbara Havers, with all her foibles and impetuous behavior (chopping off her hair being one) is not just a surface caricature but is also formed by George’s careful hand to be a very real woman. In filling in such personal detail the author makes the entire story more real and as urgent to the reader as it is to Barbara herself. There is also the poignancy of her life. To do the kind of work she does much must be sacrificed and if her allegiance to Taymullah Azhar teeters between friendship and obsession, it is clear why.

He watched her and she felt the humiliation sweep through her. That he, of all people, should see her like this. Reduced in this way to the disintegrating substance of what comprised her: loneliness that he had never known, misery that he had seldom felt, a future stretching out in front of her that contained her job and nothing else. 

Just One Evil Act is one of my more favorite in the Lynley series. At over 750 pages, it is not a book to be taken lightly (literally). George assembles a cast of characters, all with ambiguous motives, that wend their way through the narrative but like the seasoned pro she is, she leaves no loose ends. And even though DS Havers makes me grind my teeth at her willful desire to listen to no one but the voice in her head, it is so much a part of who she is that I can only hope, the calm Lynley will step in and save her once again. This is mystery reading at its finest.

This book can be purchased online at:


The Elliott Bay Book Company

The Miniaturist: A Novel

miniaturist

Ecco, August 2014

 

Set in 1686 The Miniaturist by debut author Jessie Burton is the spellbinding story of an eighteen-year-old girl married off to an older merchant who lives in Amsterdam. She arrives on his doorstep with no idea of what marriage entails or the fact that she has been procured to enhance his reputation, for her family is poor but with a pedigree. Little does she know that her husband is not what he seems and will never be a real husband to her. He is not even there to greet her, leaving her on her own to meet his sister, Marin, and their household servants, Cornelia and Otto. So begins, Petronella’s introduction to her new life. When Johannes does finally appear he is pleased but distant and his only acknowledgement of her as his wife is the gift of a marvelous miniature of their house, complete down to the identical wallpaper and drapes. It lacks only furniture and, in finding a craftsman to carve replicas for her, Nella embarks on a strange and complicated journey that changes her life.

The Miniaturist follows Nella’s lonely days in trying to adapt to a household devoid of light and her husband’s presence. She manages to find a carver in the trade paper and engages his services sight unseen. When she receives the items she ordered not only are they exact and exquisite renderings of the belongings in the house, they also include the people and cryptic notes. Given that this person has never been in the house or met any of them Nella’s interest is piqued. When she goes to the address listed no one answers the door but she learns it is a woman living there.  Nella has seen a woman following her but has never managed to speak to her. When the carvings start to prophecy what is happening in the house, Nella believes she must talk to this mysterious carver, must understand what is this person’s place in her life. How can she know what will happen to them before it does?

The story presented seems like Nella’s, but it isn’t Nella’s to tell. She spins my life, she thinks, and I cannot see the consequences. 

Much like the house that is the centerpiece of this story The Miniaturist is a magical, intricate marvel of perfection. Burton channels Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca with the depiction of a young, naïve girl thrust into a dark and isolated atmosphere populated with secrets, but goes far beyond Rebecca’s reach with luxurious prose that immerses the reader in the cold, damp of Amsterdam, the varied textures, colors and smells of Johannes’ warehouse, the superficial trappings of wealth and the darkness that fills her husband’s richly appointed house.  Nella tries to make friends with her new family but Marin’s disdain and secret life are impenetrable. Even when she does finally respond in kind with her own cutting words it doesn’t make her feel better.

Seeing her like this should make me feel powerful, Nella thinks as Marin’s sobs flood her ears—yet even now she eludes me. Like her idea of love, Marin is best witnessed in the chase—for caught like this, she is even more ungraspable. 

The secrets that multiply, the ever shifting shadows of change, are what make The Miniaturist a book that enchants from beginning to end. This is a story for a reader to love, the kind that brings on sadness when it ends because we can’t bear to leave the characters and want only to know what happens next. Burton heightens this feeling in the novel in that even after the last sentence there are still mysteries unsolved.

This book can be purchased online at:

The Miniaturist LP
by Jessie Burton
Powells.com

 


The Elliott Bay Book Company

A Dancer in the Dust

dancer in the dust

Grove Atlantic, August 2014

 

Ray Campbell is a risk assessment manager when A Dancer in the Dust begins but it is his time as an aid worker in Africa decades ago that forms the foundation of the novel. As a young man assigned to the newly independent country of Lubanda he is filled with idealism and a desire to help the people of this arid, under-developed country. When he meets Martine, a white woman who was born in the country and fully considers herself to be Lubandan, she throws his beliefs into confusion. Of all the money and volunteer projects being funneled into Lubanda she says:

And if we do not or cannot become what they want us to become, they will make us ashamed of what we are. 

It is this sentiment that makes Martine problematic for the small country’s new leaders and they begin to exert pressure on her to stop growing locally used crops on her small farm and start growing the profitable (but not used locally) crop of coffee. For his part, Campbell finds himself falling in love with Martine and believes that if she will just give up and leave Lubanda with him, they can have a better life back in America. In an effort to make Martine see things his way he gets involved and the results lead to the end of his dreams and Martine’s death.

Now, over twenty years later, Campbell is informed of a Lubandan friend’s murder in New York City. When he is told that the friend had information that was valuable to the country’s new leadership he begins a search to find his friend’s killers and somehow, redeem himself to Martine’s memory.

When reading a Cook mystery there is always a twist and it is almost always a surprise. Sometimes more than others, which is the case in the case of A Dancer in the Dust. The novel is beautifully written but when the reveal comes, it feels secondary and flat, unlike his last novel, Sandrine’s Case, in which everything went upside-down at the end. Instead of the mystery the focus in the novel is on love and/or charity and what happens when it demands change. By the end Campbell discovers,

And surely, among those errors, I have learned, there is none deeper, nor more fraught with peril, than to believe that your world, your values, your sense of comfort and achievement, should be someone else’s, too. 

For much of the story this applies to the Western belief that our way is best in all things and giving is contingent on adherence to those ways. Perhaps, instead of a bang-up mystery the truth Cook is promoting in Dust is on a smaller scale and instead of being about race, of which there is much said and learned in the novel, it is the fact that trying to make anyone into what you want them to be is going to take away from what they are…and will not end well.

 

This book can be ordered online at:

A Dancer in the Dust
by Thomas H Cook
Powells.com


The Elliott Bay Book Company

Dear Committee Members

dear committee members

Doubleday, August 2014

 

If every member of the human race evinced a fondness for literature and even a moderate level of dexterity with the written word, I would be a happier, if not more well-adjusted, man.

Jay Fitger is an underpaid, tortured and tenured English professor at Payne University. His professional life at this B-level college has largely devolved into writing letters of recommendation (LOR) for everyone from his students to a stranger who collared him outside the men’s room the day before Thanksgiving, who was never even a student of his but lay down on his office floor until he wrote said letter. All this and more is found in Julie Schumacher’s hilarious novel, Dear Committee Members. Solely through letters to everyone from department heads to the owner of Flanders Nut House, a portrait of Fitger emerges—a very complete portrait, as he includes personal details in many of his letters—especially those written to his department chair and other faculty members at Payne as he begs them for positions within their departments for students, teaching assistants, and even graduates.

Schumacher is herself a professor of English at a university and the weary, passive-aggressive tone of Fitger as he wheedles and mocks can only be the result of someone who knows the system too well. Her prose is spot-on for someone who spends their life with words and still believes in their ability to effect change. Here Fitger is trying to get a mentorship position in a different department for another person who is a stranger to him:

…I have skimmed her CV and her letter-of-interest, both of which express her theater of the absurd language about pedagogy and the euphoria of learning. Suffering creature! By all means yes, yes! I endorse her bid for the mentorship: may the bump in salary allow her to avoid scurvy by adding fruit to her diet once a week. 

Other tidbits that come to life in Fitger’s epistolary gems are his divorce from the wife he still loves and the inadvertent acknowledgment of that love to his current girlfriend in a reply-all email. All of these combined make it clear life is not working out quite as he imagined and he’s no longer willing to pretend it is.

Dear Committee Members succeeds as a wry, highly intelligent parody of academia but Fitger is not only a caricature of a beleaguered professor churning out letters for B and even C level students. He has real convictions and heartfelt beliefs about some of these people, namely a student and advisee, Darren Browles. Darren is working on a novel but no longer has the money to attend school. Fitger writes letters first to residency programs, then MFA programs, his agent, and finally to an RV park looking for a manager. None of these letters go anywhere and we feel Fitger’s very real despair over the young man’s situation. It creates a poignancy that makes Dear Committee Members more than just a sly, sulky, funny look at what is happening to the arts in colleges today. Instead, by the end of the novel Fitger shows us the reality behind the humor.

This book can be purchased online at:

Dear Committee Members
by Julie Schumacher
Powells.com


The Elliott Bay Book Company

The Story Hour

story hour

Harper, August 2014

 

When it comes to the workings of the human heart there are few who tell tales so consistently unexpected and with such depth as Thrity Umrigar. Her newest novel, The Story Hour, is about the lonely Lakshmi and Maggie, the psychologist assigned to work with her after she tries to kill herself. Lakshmi came from India six years ago with her arranged-marriage husband. Her life is restricted to working in his restaurant and store, her loneliness so great she decides to take her life when her favorite customer moves away. Maggie is an unconventional therapist married to an Indian man, so it is decided that she try and talk to Lakshmi, who will not speak to anyone at the hospital. A relationship that begins with trepidation on both parts soon turns into something much more than either expected.

Despite an awkward beginning, Maggie is intrigued and when Lakshmi does begin to open up she agrees to see her for free. This is the first subtle erasing of the boundary between doctor and patient and as the two women spend more time together it fades even more with each woman nurturing the other in her own way. Maggie empowers Lakshmi by teaching her ways to assert herself with her husband and to expand the skills she already has to create her own goals. Lakshmi takes care of Maggie and her husband (whom she sees as too busy and important to have to cook) by bringing them freshly prepared meals once a week. Umrigar gives both characters a wealth of back story but it is the simple Lakshmi who turns out to be anything but and commands the most attention. In her Umrigar creates a wonderfully nuanced character who begins as semi-literate but with untapped intelligence and ends with her having her own business, driving a car and flying cross country by herself. And yet, when hurt, like a child, she seeks only to inflict more hurt.

In The Story Hour Umrigar is revisiting the sensitive territory of boundaries she explored in The Space Between Us (one of my favorite novels). In that novel it was class lines but in The Story Hour it is something more intangible. Maggie is a well-educated professional who cannot begin to imagine life in Lakshmi’s world nor ever fully understand its impact on shaping who she is. Lakshmi has no experience outside of her life in India and does not understand the intricacies of social relationships, so she wants to see Maggie as her best friend. The way each is presented is the result of experiences they themselves do not even recognize in their ability to shape their actions. It is this undercurrent, generated through Umrigar’s insightful prose, which makes the resulting actions almost inconceivable. When the end begins, it is shocking and tears apart the comforting world both have come to cherish.

 

This book can be purchased online at:

The Story Hour LP
by Thrity Umrigar
Powells.com


The Elliott Bay Book Company

 

Vintage: A Novel

vintage

William Morrow, pbk release August 2014

Hourglass Vintage is a charming used clothing shop in Madison, Wisconsin. It is also where three women at very different stages of life meet in Vintage, the debut novel from author Susan Gloss. Violet is the owner,  Amithi is a middle-aged Indian woman, who brings in much of her jewelry and clothes to sell, and April is a pregnant eighteen-year-old who thought she would be marrying her wealthy college boyfriend but whose family put a stop to their wedding. In one small store, these three women come together and forge a novel of humor, insight and strength.

As in any great piece of clothing, it is the details that make Vintage so enjoyable. Each chapter begins with a description of an item in the shop and its history. Gloss is no stranger to fashion and it shows in her descriptions of a Schiaparelli pant suits, a Dior evening gown, or an Hermes bag. This is the fun in Vintage but the novel’s strength lies in the fact that while it is about the distinctly feminine subject of clothes it is not centered on getting a man or keeping a man. Violet has left a drunk of a husband who spent her tuition money at a strip bar and now owns the store she’s dreamed of since high school. April forges ahead with her plans to have her baby and attend college and Amithi does not crumple over her husband’s infidelity but instead rises up in anger.

How dare he long for something he himself ruined? What selfishness to feel sorry for himself when he’d hurt her so deeply!

Each of the women has her own battles and Gloss uses these to bond them together. Violet is being threatened with the loss of her shop, Amithi is a talented seamstress and helps out with alterations while exploring options for life on her own and April is a math and computer whiz, who takes Violet’s muddled books and organizes them.  With a thoughtful approach Gloss makes each recognizable to all.

Vintage is the perfect book to get one through these dog days of heat and lethargy before summer slinks away. It is one of those happy-making novels in that while there are struggles and emotional journeys, it still wraps up as neatly and satisfyingly as finding a dress you love…in a size smaller than you normally wear…on sale. It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

This book can be purchased online at:

Vintage
by Susan Gloss
Powells.com


The Elliott Bay Book Company

Friendswood: A Novel

friendswood

Riverhead Books, August 2014

 

Friendswood, Texas is a good, old oil-based community. Rosemont is a small suburb built near a refinery and life is good there, until funny greasy black coils of goo start appearing in people’s yards like fat worms after a rain. Friendswood by René Steinke begins years after the fallout from the leakage of deadly chemicals in the field around which the houses of Rosemont were built. Steinke follows four characters, each on their own path yet connected, whether they worked in oil or not. For Lee, whose fifteen-year-old daughter died of a rare form of cancer, the path runs straight for the heart of the man trying to build houses on top of the polluted field, claiming that the EPA has deemed the land safe. Hal is the formerly drunken, cheating spouse who has now found Jesus and is certain that he can change his luck by being the realtor to represent the new houses for sale. Willa is a fifteen-year-old with a crush on Hal’s football playing son and a propensity to hallucinate freakish animals. Dex’s father works on the rigs and he manages the football team, having neither the interest nor the physique to be a player.

There is the inevitable struggle for each of the characters and Steinke wastes no time in defining who falls where. As Lee battles against the local developer and the apathetic EPA for relief from her grief Hal tries to stop her in an effort to ingratiate himself with the developer and earn the millions he believe Jesus wants him to have. Willa is a quiet, pretty girl, who wants to be liked by the star football player and so goes with him to another player’s house for lunch and wakes up much later that day, alone, undressed and with no memory of the afternoon. Dex is the self-sufficient boy with a crush on Willa. He wants to be a part of the popular crowd but refuses to kowtow to its leaders. He has the self-esteem that she lacks but still cannot completely break free of their high school dynamics.

While it may seem that Friendswood is cutting too broad a swath with such disparate characters and themes—toxic chemicals, corporate greed, small town politics, growing up, rape—it doesn’t read that way at all. Instead, Steinke does such a good job of developing the sense of community that the smallest encounters contribute to the seamless feel of the story. Lee, who struggles daily with the death of her daughter, sees Willa alone at a grown-ups’ party and talking to her is enough for the girl to unburden herself about her fear over what she cannot remember. The only hitch in the narrative is Willa’s hallucinations. They detract from her interior battles with shame and despair. Their meaning or purpose is never made clear Willa’s real experience diminished.

Friendswood takes carefully crafted characters and stories and brings them together in much the same way they could be in life. There is a humanity to each, as they navigate their way through to what they think is right or pay their way from what they’ve done wrong. Steinke leaves the reader with a feeling throughout that what is buried will resurface and will still create change, even if not what is expected/desired. Willa’s rape is as insidious and dangerous to the town as the toxic land, in that how they deal with each will have lasting repercussions.

 

This book can be purchased online at:

Friendswood
by Rene Steinke
Powells.com


The Elliott Bay Book Company

California: A Novel

california

Little, Brown and Company, August 2014

 

There is no prelude in Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, no introduction to life in a time of normalcy. Instead, the novel begins with Cal and Frida living in a small house in a forest somewhere in the U.S. but we don’t know where because state names are no longer used. The dystopia is in full swing as America has finally collapsed due to climate change, the oil crisis, ineffectual government, and the widening divide between the rich and everyone else. Natural disasters have wiped out established cities and populations and disease has killed enough that the rich have fled to Communities—newly established towns with their own police forces, schools, hospitals, fire departments and restrictive requirements for admittance.

Cal and Frida left a dying Los Angeles two years ago and while they are managing to eke out an existence in the forest when Frida becomes pregnant they decide to strike out for what is known as a settlement or, as Lepucki makes clear, communities for everyone without the money to live in a Community. They reach the heavily protected outer boundaries of a place known as the Land where they are welcomed in but not as strangers. It turns out Frida’s brother Micah, a terrorist fighting the government, who she thought was dead, is the leader of this settlement. They are accepted provisionally until a vote with the entire group can be held. Micah also tells them there can be no mention of Frida’s pregnancy.

Lepucki mirrors the desiccation of the environment in her characters. Cal and Frida are supposed to be in love and yet evidence of this is scarce beyond their life in the forest. Once in the Land, as they split into separate jobs, she in the kitchen baking and he with the group’s leadership, they begin forming their own alliances, gathering their own information, keeping secrets and sometimes, even distrusting each other.  Through her prose, Lepucki generates a flat affect in all of the characters that gives a monotone feeling to the novel. Everyone is guarded and secretive. No one questions anything, there is no talk of the past, all has been buried and yet, something is going on. Cal feels it brush against him for a moment

The life they’d created for themselves had been fragile and solid at once, beautiful in those ways, too: the shell of an egg, the stone of a pillar. Now things felt wrong. 

but lets it go as he becomes more involved in how the Land really works.

California shows a country shrunken down to its most elemental level: rich versus poor—which provides fodder for discussion no matter which side you’re on. Lepucki then turns it upside down, showing the tangled underpinnings. The Land’s history, Micah’s leadership, and his plans for the future are all called into question. Events culminate at the group vote and California falls into a chaos that may have been designed by Lepucki or just got out of hand. The result is a jumble of action, an ending that feels misplaced, and the realization that what is left is exactly what always was. Dystopian, indeed.

Tomorrow night, August 12th, Edan Lepucki will be appearing at the Seattle Public Library with Sherman Alexie in an event co-sponsored by The Elliott Bay Book Company.

 

This book can be purchased online at:


The Elliott Bay Book Company

 

California
by Edan Lepucki
Powells.com

The Troop: A Novel

troop

Gallery, pbk February 2014

 

Gross, gooey, and well…yucky, and those are the positive adjectives if you’re a horror fan. Nick Cutter’s The Troop goes exactly where squeamish people don’t want to go and does so in a way that if you’ve started the novel makes you unlikely to stop. When the nastiness appeared after less than thirty pages I wondered how Cutter would be able to sustain the narrative but no worries there—things just go from bad to worse.

A Boy Scout troop and their Scoutmaster Tim Riggs go to Falstaff Island for a weekend camping trip. The first night a stranger joins them on their uninhabited island. Riggs, who is also the town doctor, sees the man needs medical attention and tries to help him. Mistake number one because this man cannot be helped and he is highly contagious. His only request is for food, any food because he is starving, and his appearance makes it clear this is not a ruse but that he is indeed wasting away. When he smashes the short wave radio (the only form of communication on the island) Tim sedates him. The following events are not unpredictable but suffice it to say, in short order Riggs and the stranger are dead.

On their own after Riggs’s death, the boys try and find ways to get off the island but as military ships circle the water they realize that help is not likely to be on the way. Now Cutter shifts from gruesome physical horror to the more insidious mental and emotional drama. With no supervision, each boy begins to give into his own nature ala Lord of the Flies. Their machinations, as they team up, fight, disperse, and try and go it alone, all while avoiding contact with what seems to be a highly contagious entity, provide the psychological terror to balance out the novel.

It came down to that flexibility of a person’s mind. An ability to withstand horrors and snap back, like a fresh elastic band. A flinty mind shattered…A grown-up’s mind—even one belonging to a decent man like Scoutmaster Tim—lacked that elasticity. The world had been robbed of all its mysteries, and with those mysteries went the horror.

Amongst all this, Cutter layers in trial excerpts and interviews with a scientist and an Army Admiral, giving some indication of how The Troop is going to play out. Still, even as things fall apart (literally) and the contagion seems to increase its ability to infiltrate humans, the story remains fast paced and bloody. Perfect reading for a summer camping trip.

This book can be purchased online at:

The Troop
by Nick Cutter
Powells.com

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