Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

“A Necessary End” by Holly Brown.
“A Necessary End” by Holly Brown.


A Necessary End

Holly Brown, William Morrow, 400 pages

The desire for a child turns into a deadly obsession in the highly stylized “A Necessary End.” In the “Gone Girl” mode, author Holly Brown fashions her second novel around three unlikable, but interesting people, making us care about the twists this domestic thriller takes.

Adrienne has decided that she and her husband should be parents. Unable to conceive, this second-grade teacher plunges into the world of adoptions, signing up for online sites where the couple can be contacted by birth mothers.

Adrienne is consumed with adoption, ignoring the obvious warning signs when 19-year-old Leah answers her ad.

Brown cleverly pits each character against the other as they form an odd triangle, each jealous of the other’s attention to the other that intensifies when the baby is born.

Brown adds layer after layer to this well-constructed psychological drama, showing the unchecked emotions seething just below the surface.

A clever twist that comes late in the story takes “A Necessary End” to a different level and gives insight into the characters. Violence can erupt when it’s least expected, even though all the clues were hiding in plain sight.

Oline H. Cogdill, Associated Press


The Spectators

Victor Hussenot, Nobrow Press , 96 pages

We think of cities as anonymous, as sprawling – and they are. But they are also private, intimate, landscapes suspended between loneliness and community.

Such an interplay sits at the center of Victor Hussenot’s beautiful, ethereal “The Spectators,” a graphic novel – or is it? – about city walking, city haunting, all the ways the metropolis can get beneath our skins.

There is no story per se, just a series of riffs, imaginative leaps. “Each of us,” he observes, “sees the city in our own way.”

In part, Hussenot is referring to the voyeuristic aspects of city life, how we are often on the outside looking in. But even more, he is pointing out its layers, multiple lives and multiple eras overlapping in real time.

We inhabit our cities only briefly, and they have a life that extends beyond our own.

David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times