Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from December 14–18 below, so you can revisit the best of the week.
Monday December 14
The Man without a Shadow, by Joyce Carol Oates
Margo Sharpe is an anxiously ambitious graduate student in a cutting-edge neuropsychology lab, in 1965, when she first encounters Elihu Hoopes. The scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, Eli is tall, tailored, and charming, which camouflages his severe mental limitations until one speaks with him for 70 seconds. Eli can crisply recall the first 37 years of his life, but after a viral infection savaged his brain while he was camping alone in the Adirondacks, he is unable to form new memories.
Tuesday December 15
Waylon! One Awesome Thing, by Sara Pennypacker
Waylon, a science-obsessed boy with a good heart, initially feels troubled when a charismatic classmate divides all the boys into two competing teams, separating friends and creating discord. Worse, he doesn’t assign Waylon to either team. Meanwhile, Baxter Boylen, a student who left last fall and was rumored to have spent time in prison, returns to their third-grade classroom looking bigger, older, and tougher than ever—and on a class visit to the police station, the officers know him suspiciously well.
Wednesday December 16
Work like Any Other, by Virginia Reeves
Work like Any Other is set in Alabama just as electricity is beginning to transform the countryside. Roscoe finds his passion and life’s work in handling this invisible and dangerous force, and feels lost and angry when he has to give up his good electric company job and move to the failing farm his wife, Marie, a teacher, has inherited, a shabby place not yet hooked up to the electric lines running along the adjacent road.
Thursday December 17
Tom Clancy Commander in Chief, by Mark Greaney
The convention of using a dead author’s name in titles of books that use that author’s characters is always awkward, and so it remains here in a construction that makes it sound like the late Clancy has returned to life as the commander in chief of something, perhaps the U.S. armed forces. In fact, brand identification aside, the latest Jack Ryan thriller, written by veteran Clancy impersonator Greaney, finds Ryan, the fictional commander in chief and U.S. president, racing against time to stop Russia’s megalomaniacal president from carrying out a global terror plot designed to move Russia to the top of the political food chain.
Friday December 18
Even Dogs in the Wild, by Ian Rankin
Like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, John Rebus is having trouble with retirement. With no murders to investigate, he’s left with only two interests: smoking and drinking. Fortunately, his former colleagues have a way of asking for his help, as they do here when it appears that a murderer has targeted Big Ger Cafferty, the quasi-retired gangland leader who has been Rebus’ nemesis (or perhaps frenemy) for decades.