An engaging tale about a banker’s struggles to solve a family mystery.


A debut novel revolves around one man’s attempts to uncover the circumstances surrounding his father’s murder in a violence-torn Third World country.

Like some strange adult fairy tale, Verheul’s book takes place in an unnamed tropical country filled with such mythical-sounding municipalities as City by the Water. It is a land peopled by characters like Captain Christmas, V6, Skipper Boutique, and Colonel Neptune. When Johan’s banker son, Oliver, first arrives, he finds everyone to be friendly and helpful; they seem genuinely sad about his father’s death. But as time passes, Oliver realizes that they all have their own motives; everyone wants money from him; and no one can or wants to really explain what happened. Lost in the exigencies of protocol, politics, and public relations, Oliver tries to follow the money trail. He learns his father had an unusually large amount of money in the bank. He discovers that Johan was the lead man on the Disarmament and Stabilization Program, a scheme to trade farm implements and other domestic items to the terrorist followers of Christmas in exchange for turning in their guns. Oliver also flirts with a woman who may or may not have been involved romantically with his father. Meanwhile in the U.S., Davey, an unemployed gun fanatic, learns about the DSP. Convinced this is a plot to take away everyone’s guns, Davey heads to the unnamed country on the dime of a barroom of fellow gun enthusiasts to convince Christmas he should keep his weapons. In this story that is part mystery, part thriller, and part introspective examination of personal values, Verheul has a real eye for how money and corruption affect the day-to-day life in a Third World nation. The author establishes believable characters, humor, and pathos in his well-paced tale through concise and efficient writing (“Christmas often wondered how the army had never been able to find them. They had tried, though. They flew helicopters over the forest—that is, if they could pay for fuel—and sent out patrols to find their base. But the forest had become their ally”). Verheul also manages to bring the distinctive cast of characters to several individual and credible epiphanies. This lively and enjoyable read should appeal to those who prefer their action thrillers with a literary twist and those who take theirs neat.

An engaging tale about a banker’s struggles to solve a family mystery.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-692-04769-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2017

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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