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July 23, 2021

George Ernsberger
Posted 7/23/21

 

The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye (Putnam). Big contemporary…hm-m, murder mystery, for one thing; but then, theater novel, gay drama—and still more, by this column …

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July 23, 2021

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The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye (Putnam). Big contemporary…hm-m, murder mystery, for one thing; but then, theater novel, gay drama—and still more, by this column favorite practitioner of all those arts and crafts. Some of us will notice a resemblance to certain Shakespeare characters, others won’t be distracted at all by the fairly distant echoes of Hamlet, here—oh, and three witches, though they must have come in from MacBeth, no? But really, this is for Faye’s fans and any fans of theater people and New York generally; it’s very knowing about all that, I can tell you, whether you’re determined to feel at home there or not. Plotty, full of atmosphere and surprises, engrossing and satisfying. Really, Faye’s a pro.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel (Gallery). Terrific historical fiction—maybe especially engrossing for young people, though certainly not written or published especially for them. It’s WWII, Harmel’s specialty, clearly based on research that discovered this actual intrepid band of refugees from Hitler’s Germany, in hiding in Polish forests and small towns (clusters here and there, with a common purpose). The really inspiring young woman at the center of this novel is something like a superhero, though this is realistic fiction, no comic book. She was an orphan, raised by an old woman who trained her in skills for living in hiding and avoiding the dangers in wild forests. Very live in period details and atmosphere, an immersive experience—but not only that, full of action, too.

Sleeping Bear by Connor Sullivan (Emily Bestler/Atria). Big, strong first novel, a thriller. A spy novel, of sorts, but even more, an action-adventure novel, set in Russia, a bear that seems never to sleep (Gregory’s a California guy, but he certainly seems at home in Eastern Europe). A young Army veteran with some resources of her own is kidnapped, in Alaska but to Russia, where she’s held in a missile silo with several others. Her father has even more resources, and considerable history, and he’s certain that there’s reason to be found in his backstory for why his daughter has been taken, so we have two differently compelling points of view to live in for stretches.

The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman (Knopf). Very smart, completely convincing historical espionage novel (to a reviewer who’s an amateur at espionage, seems responsible to report), and in any case certainly sophisticated about international politics and knowing about its era, which is the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks. I’d mention casually that I was nearby for those, but this is actually a couple of years earlier, so…emphasis on lead-up: it’s set in Hamburg, in 1999, where in fact those attacks were planned. No special interest in the attacks is needed at all, I should (at last) make clear; this is just great historical spy fiction.

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