Anti-hero sequel ups the ante; Flint enthralls in debut

Associated Press

‘The Nowhere Man’

By Gregg Hurwitz


The book jacket for “The Nowhere Man” by Gregg Hurwitz.

Evan Smoak, the anti-hero from last year’s “Orphan X,” returns in an even more intense and harrowing thriller.

Smoak was trained as an operative in the orphan program and was known as Orphan X. He has evaded that life, but his lethal skills are still put to use as a vigilante. After he saves someone, he tells that person to give his phone number to another one who needs his special services. He’s a ghost, known as The Nowhere Man.

After receiving a call from a young woman, Smoak is able to rescue her, and when he takes out the man responsible for her predicament, thugs in full combat gear knock him unconscious before he can escape and he wakes in a prison cell.

His captor, Rene, tells him that he will be released when he transfers $27 million from his bank account. Rene doesn’t realize Smoak has access to more money than that — and is more resourceful. He’s also pleased that he’s been imprisoned not by his former colleagues who are looking for him, but a criminal solely interested in money.

The novel focuses on Smoak and the psychological issues associated with being trapped without any hope of escape. The more he fights back, the more Rene and his henchmen are ready for him. Smoak keeps count of every minor detail in case it can be used to help him escape. Just when it could get a bit repetitive with the attempts to flee followed by recapture, an element is added that makes the narrative jump even more in intensity.

Hurwitz knows how to put the reader deep in the mind of his hero as the pace never lets up.

— Jeff Ayers

‘Little Deaths’

By Emma Flint

(Hachette Books)

The book jacket for “Little Deaths” by Emma Flint.

Emma Flint’s mesmerizing debut, “Little Deaths,” works well as a look at misogyny, gossip, morals and the rush to judge others when a child goes missing.

The novel opens with Ruth Malone in prison, convicted of killing her two children, Frankie, almost 6 years old, and Cindy, age 4. Ruth was the immediate suspect — single mothers were an anomaly in 1965, especially those who work as a cocktail waitress.

Most neighbors in her working-class area of Queens, New York, shunned Ruth for defying convention by leaving her seemingly hard-working, faithful husband, Frank. The police, especially Sgt. Charlie Devlin, are even more dubious about Ruth when they find her trash overflowing with empty liquor bottles, a suitcase full of letters from men, many of them married, and provocative clothing strewn around her apartment. That she’s out drinking and dancing days after the deaths of her children further cements their disgust and their belief that she’s guilty.

After Ruth’s conviction, cub reporter Pete Wonicke begins to wonder if she was convicted because of her character, rather than real evidence.

Flint captures the loneliness, struggles and ennui of the residents of working-class Queens in the mid-1960s, especially the women who, for the most part, are stay-at-home moms.

While Flint bases her novel on the real case of Alice Crimmins and her controversial conviction, she turns “Little Deaths” into a poignant look at a woman fighting for her emotional independence, who keeps her grief, heartbreak and frustrations deep inside her soul.

— Oline H. Cogdill


For the week ending Jan. 15.

Hardcover Fiction

1. “The Mistress” by Danielle Steel (Delacorte)

2. “The Whistler” by John Grisham (Doubleday)

3. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

4. “Cross the Line” by James Patterson (Little, Brown)

5. “Below the Belt” by Stuart Woods (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

6. “Two by Two” by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central Publishing)

7. “The Chemist” by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)

8. “No Man’s Land” by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing)

9. “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult (Ballantine)

10. “Night School” by Lee Child (Delacorte)

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. “The Lose Your Belly Diet” by Travis Stork (Ghost Mountain)

2. “Food, Health, and Happiness” by Oprah Winfrey (Flatiron Books)

3. “Three Days in January” by Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney (William Morrow)

4. “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance (Harper)

5. “Jesus Always” by Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson)

6. “Killing the Rising Sun” by O’Reilly/Dugard (Henry Holt & Co)

7. “The Magnolia Story” by Gaines/Gaines (Thomas Nelson)

8. “The Princess Diarist” by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider)

9. “Tools of Titans” by Timothy Ferriss (HMH)

10. “Zero Sugar Diet” by David Zinczenko (Ballantine)