Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.
Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
A lyrical, allusive (and elusive) voyage into the mists of British folklore by renowned novelist Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go, 2005, etc.).
There be giants buried beneath the earth—and also the ancient kings of Britain, Arthur among them. Ishiguro’s tale opens not on such a declaration but instead on a hushed tone; an old man has been remembering days gone by, and the images he conjures, punctuated by visions of a woman with flowing red hair, may be truthful or a troubling dream. Axl dare not ask his neighbors, fellow residents of a hillside and bogside burrow, for help remembering, “[f]or in this community, the past was rarely discussed.” With his wife, who bears the suggestive if un-Arthurian name Beatrice, the old man sets off on a quest in search of the past and of people forgotten. As it unfolds, Axl finds himself in the company of such stalwarts as a warrior named Wistan, who is himself given to saying such things as “[t]he trees and moorland here, the sky itself seem to tug at some lost memory,” and eventually Sir Gawain himself. The premise of a nation made up of amnesiac people longing for meaning is beguiling, and while it opens itself to heavy-handed treatment, Ishiguro is a master of subtlety; as with Never Let Me Go, he allows a detail to slip out here, another there, until we are finally aware of the facts of the matter, horrible though they may be. By the time the she-dragon named Querig enters the picture, the reader will already well know that we’re in Tolkien-ish territory—but Tolkien by way of P.D. James, with deep studies in character and allegory layered onto the narrative. And heaps of poetry, too, even as forgetfulness resolves as a species of PTSD: “I was but a young knight then….Did you not all grow old in a time of peace? So leave us to go our way without insults at our back.”
Lovely: a fairy tale for grown-ups, both partaking in and departing from a rich literary tradition.
Rumors of lost pirate treasure in the Gulf of Mexico drive hard men mad in the sweaty, desperate days after the BP oil spill.
This is one hell of a debut novel. Cooper combines the rough-hewn but poetic style favored by writers like Charles Willeford with the kinds of miscreants so beloved by Elmore Leonard, all operating in the tumultuous modern-day disaster that is New Orleans. Our chief troublemaker is old Gus Lindquist, a one-armed drunk who believes that a hard-to-find island off the coast still holds the buried doubloons of French pirate Jean Lafitte. He hires Wes Trench, the troubled teenage son of a local shrimper, to accompany him on his so-called adventure to find the loot. Unfortunately, the site in Louisiana’s Barataria region is also home to a patch of particularly potent weed farmed by Reginald and Victor Toup, two dangerous scumbags who think up stunts like delivering an alligator to Lindquist’s bedroom in an attempt to scare him off. Other comic moments come from the efforts of slick BP representative Brady Grimes to convince the hardheaded and suspicious locals to take a paltry, token payment over the massive settlement everyone knows is coming. Lastly, Cooper throws in a pair of wild cards in Nate Cosgrove and John Henry Hanson, unlikely allies who meet on a road crew while serving out their community-service sentences. When Cosgrove and Hanson decide the Toup brothers’ ganja is worth ripping off, it all comes boiling over in a conflict not everyone will survive. With crisp, noir-inspired writing and a firmly believable setting, Cooper has written an engaging homage to classic crime writing that still finds things to say about the desperate days we live through now.
Somewhere, Donald E. Westlake, John D. MacDonald and Elmore Leonard are smiling down on this nasty, funny piece of work.
After he’s abandoned once again by his infamous Black Witch father (Half Bad, 2013), Nathan grapples with his new, unruly magical gift and risks everything to save his true love.
Nathan hides in the woods outside Mercury’s cottage, waiting for his friend Gabriel to return and ever watchful for the Hunters nearby that seek to kill him. Though he’s quite sure Gabriel is dead, he can’t bring himself to leave. Instead, he daydreams of Annalise, who is trapped in a deathlike sleep, and he wrestles with the gift his father, Marcus, gave him: Nathan can transform into an animal, a bloodthirsty, uncontrollable animal that feels entirely separate from himself when he’s changed. When a stranger appears offering to help him, Nathan’s luck suddenly turns. Soon, he’s reunited with old friends and introduced to a new alliance of all witches—Black, White and Half Blood—determined to bring down the monstrous leader of the Council, Soul O’Brien. As Nathan embraces the newfound wildness of his gift, he changes in visceral, satisfying ways. But reuniting with the ones he loves the most provides the most shocking catalyst of all. Green delivers vibrant characters, and Nathan’s relationships arc in thrilling highs and lows. The start of his journey feels slow and too safe, but the climax ushers in a bloody, unforgettable cliffhanger.
A character-driven page-turner offering both emotional depth and gory thrills.
(Fantasy. 12 & up)
A multilayered, morally ambiguous novel of family, blood and betrayal.
Working against a backdrop of World War II, Lehane continues and perhaps concludes the ambitious series of historical novels that began with the epic sweep of The Given Day (2008) and continued with Live By Night (2012). Almost a decade after the climactic carnage of that second novel, protagonist Joe Coughlin has apparently left the violence of his gangster past behind, mixing easily in the upper echelons of Tampa society, serving behind the scenes as “the fixer for the entire Florida criminal syndicate.” Still a widower and now a devoted father to his young son, he appears to be above the fray, a respected figure without enemies. Yet he’s haunted by the ghost of a young man he can’t quite identify, and he’s threatened by a rumor that someone has threatened a hit on him for reasons unknown. He experiences tension between some of the mob leaders to whom he feels loyal, amid rampant speculation of a rat in the ranks who's skimming and perhaps snitching. He’s also having an affair, one that seems doomed. On the surface, this is a crime novel that adheres to convention, but Coughlin has a depth beyond genre fiction, with a sense of morality and a code of ethics that the life he has chosen frequently puts to the test. As a particularly evil adversary warns him, “You have put a lot of sin out into the world, Joseph. Maybe it’s rolling back in on the tide. Maybe men like us, in order to be men like us, sacrifice peace of mind forever.” While this seems to lack some of the literary ambition of Lehane’s best work, its cumulative thematic power and whip-crack narrative propulsion will enrich the reader’s appreciation past the last page.
On one level, a very moving meditation on fathers and sons; on another, an illumination of character and fate.
Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett’s 15th case takes him through some of the darkest days of his checkered career.
While Joe’s surveying a field in which someone massacred a flock of endangered sage grouse, he gets a call that a young woman’s been found in a ditch, badly beaten. Maybe it’s not Joe’s adopted daughter, April, who ran off with rodeo rider Dallas Cates shortly after her 18th birthday (Stone Cold, 2014). But Joe and his librarian wife, Marybeth, know it is, and of course they’re right. Eldon and Brenda Cates insist that Dallas got much too badly banged up at a Houston rodeo to have lifted a hand against April, with whom he’d already split up. Although April, lying in a medically induced coma, is in no position to dispute their story, Joe’s ready to kill Dallas himself—until an anonymous tip identifies survivalist Tilden Cudmore as April’s abductor. Certainly everything about Cudmore’s behavior, especially when he’s confronted by the law, indicates that he fits the bill. While Joe is still wondering which of the suspects is really guilty, his old pal Nate Romanowski, the outlaw falconer last seen giving evidence against murder-for-hire kingpin Wolfgang Templeton, is released from prison, made to sign away most of his civil rights into the bargain, and lured into a lethal ambush and left for dead. Who’s responsible for his shooting? What have they done with his lover and business partner, Liv Brannan? And what hope does Joe have of solving such a range of felonies, especially those that hit closest to home?
All the action and suspense of Box’s long string of high-country adventures, with a solution that’s considerably tighter and more satisfying than most of them. One of Joe’s best.
When Max's friend goes missing, he finds himself in the middle of an increasingly tangled web of lies and conspiracy.
Max's two best friends in the world are his girlfriend, Parvati, and a senator's son, Preston. The three share a gift for lying effectively, and when Preston asks Max to give him an alibi so he can go to Vegas, Max doesn't even blink. But when Preston doesn't return the next morning, Max suddenly becomes the prime person of interest. With Parvati's help, Max does his best to clear his name and discover Preston's true whereabouts. As the mystery unfolds, readers will be put on edge for two reasons: first, Stokes' superb knack for misdirection and intrigue, and second, Max's increasingly poor decisions. Whenever a fork in the road appears and Max must choose between cooperating with the police and making himself a guiltier target, he chooses the latter. This quality is frustrating but remarkably endearing. Max is so well-drawn it's hard not to be completely sympathetic to his predicament. As the ground beneath his feet falls away, Max uncovers bigger and stranger clues regarding Preston's fate, and the author twists and turns at all the right moments. Even the keenest mystery buffs will be hard-pressed to predict the book's finale, which packs quite the emotional and physical punch.
Aimée Leduc (Murder in Pigalle, 2014, etc.) puts everything on the line to solve her most vexing cold case—the murder of her father.
In France as elsewhere, the Roma live by their own rules, forging alliances and settling disputes within their own clans. So when Nicolás Constantin, a manouche teenager, approaches Aimée, she can hardly believe what he asks of her: to come to Hôpital Laennec on the Left Bank so his dying mother can make peace before passing. Convinced that Drina Constantin’s deathbed confession will shed light on the explosion in Place Vendôme that killed her detective father, Aimée leaves her infant daughter, Chloé, with child minder Babette and hurries over to the chic 7th arrondissement, only to find that Drina has disappeared. Aimée is torn. She wants to be a good parent, especially now that the child’s father, Melac, and his new wife, Donatine, have shown their determination to challenge her for custody. But to be the parent Chloé needs, Aimée needs to understand her own parents. What did her father know that made someone want to get him out of the way? And was his death connected to the disappearance of her mother years earlier? Aimée’s search for answers takes her to the chic homes of haute bourgeoisie like Madame Uzes, who pinches her pennies while running missions for the gens du voyage; meanwhile, Aimée’s partner, René, haunts dives like La Bouteille aux Puces, where Madame Bercou knows somebody who knows somebody who might know Drina. But it isn’t until she finds Roland Leseur, an official at the Quai d’Orsay, whose younger brother Pascal, before his presumed suicide, was the youngest deputy in the Assemblée Nationale, that Aimée gets an inkling of the lofty heights her case will reach.
Aimée’s 15th outing is a killer, with all the suspense, all the surprise and all the Parisian flavor you’d expect from Black.
A camping trip turns deadly for a group of friends as a cackling stalker creeps among the trees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
City girl Callie Valasquez agrees to go camping only to impress her new, popular girlfriends, Lissa and Penelope. After moving from Chicago to upstate New York, she’s hoping to foster new friendships like the ones she left behind. Inviting her new boyfriend, Jeremy, doesn’t hurt either. As the group surrounds a glowing fire, Lissa relates the tale of the Skinner, a murderer who committed atrocities in the very woods they sit in and was never found. Of course, it isn’t long before things begin to go awry. Jeremy and Penelope topple off a bridge into a river, losing their supplies and barely making it out alive. Then a charming stranger appears, offering to help. But can he be trusted? As the group falls apart, and trust begins to crumble, a watcher in the woods creeps in. Callie and her friends teeter on the clichéd, with Lissa acting as the over-the-top alpha and Callie as the frightened new girl finding her footing. But Scott weaves palpable tension and masterfully ramps it up toward a truly thrilling conclusion. Cinematically paced, it’s tough to put it down.
Readers will be kept up late, shocked to discover the depth of the darkness that lies in the woods
. (Suspense. 12-18)