THE TIME BETWEEN. By Karen White. New American Library. 336 pages. $25.95.
Eleanor Murray is a drudge. She works days in a Broad Street investment firm and carpools home to North Charleston, where she cooks and cleans for her demanding mother, disabled sister and oh-so-tempting brother-in-law. Her mother decides if Eleanor’s night includes bathing her sister and giving her a head massage, or playing the piano until midnight in a dodgy North Chuck bar for a down-on-their-luck crowd.
Add to this dreary resume a guilty conscience for having caused the accident that left her sister paralyzed and falling in love with her sister’s husband, and you have a character devoid of the joie de vivre she once possessed. It’s not surprising that Eleanor drinks herself into an alcoholic haze and allows strangers to take her home.
Enter the enigmatic Finn Beaufain, Eleanor’s boss at the investment firm, who offers her a part-time job playing the piano, reading to his smack-talking elderly aunt and driving his precocious but ailing daughter around Edisto Island. She takes it.
These ingredients might be enough to constitute a breezy, beach read, but best-selling author Karen White serves up much more. The author adds to this mix a complicated secret that the aunt slowly reveals about her own sister, her mysterious death, Hungary during World War II, a Jewish resistance fighter and a Nazi soldier. “The Time Between” is a novel about deception, defiance, atoning for one’s sins and finding forgiveness.
The author will be at Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St., at 4 p.m. Monday for a book singing.
Reviewer Virginia Friedman is a writer and filmmaker in Charleston.
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. By Neil Gaiman. William Morrow. 192 pages. $26.
It has been almost a decade since Neil Gaiman released a novel for adults. His latest offering, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” is well worth the wait. Gaiman tells the story of a boy who finds himself in danger from supernatural forces. The boy’s only salvation is a strange girl who lives at the end of the lane. She claims her duck pond is the ocean and guides him through an unseen world.
At fewer than 200 pages, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” is shorter than most of Gaiman’s other works, but Gaiman is able to weave this delightfully disturbing and imaginative fairy tale in just a few pages.
The quick pace of the novel adds to the urgency of our narrator’s plight and heightens the tension as the danger around him swells. It’s impossible to put this book down, as Gaiman grabs you firmly by the imagination and takes off running like a madman.
Reviewer Brindy McNair is managing editor at Cola Daily in Columbia.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. By Robert Wilson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 404 pages. $28.
Overcomplicated and chaotic are not the same as layered and nuanced.
“Capital Punishment” starts with mass confusion as a young woman is kidnapped off the street in London. The whirl continues as Robert Wilson sets up some of the main characters, a bunch of minor characters and a whole lot of rapidly changing circumstances. It’s probably meant to be complex, fast-paced and action-packed, but those characteristics need to be paired with more cohesion between the different story lines.
A few pages of the kidnapper’s therapy session with his victim are followed by her father’s Bollywood career, which gives way to his business dealings in Pakistan, then a possible terrorist threat against London from Pakistani or Afghan extremists, the kidnap specialist’s sideline as a hit man, the problems the specialist is having with his own daughter, other bad guys who want to steal the kidnapping victim and set up their own ransom deal and so on.
“Capital Punishment” has elements of a good thriller, but having all of those elements in the same book makes for a story that’s just not quite enjoyable. This is the first book in a new series, but reading it won’t leave you anxious for the second one.
Reviewer Carol Edwards is a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County.