Tommy Twiceborn


In Saeed’s debut thriller, a young boy believes that he’s the reincarnation of a murdered child.
Eleven-year-old Tommy Stevenson and his prankster friends (known collectively as “the Furtive Four”) decide that, for their latest prank, one of them will pretend to be the reincarnation of Sean Butler, a name they found on a headstone. Tommy is chosen at random to play Sean, and the three become obsessed with researching the boy’s death; it turns out that he drowned 12 years ago, along with his parents. Tommy tells everyone that he’s Sean as part of the prank but then begins to genuinely believe the claim. He even develops a fear of water and sees images of men arguing near the lake where the family died. Soon Tommy is convinced that Sean and his parents were killed, and newspaper reporter Derek Spalding helps verify this by getting police to exhume the bodies. The murders are linked to a jewelry heist, and it seems that a dangerous person believes that Tommy knows where to find the unrecovered jewels. The novel starts as a coming-of-age drama focusing on a boy and his efforts to deal with the notion of life after death. However, Saeed skillfully shifts the plot into a murder mystery, zeroing in on Spalding as he tracks down info on the Scorpio Gang, who may be responsible for the robbery and murders. He and Tommy share the spotlight, resulting in a fascinating combination: a sympathetic tween whose friends ditch him when they think he’s taken a joke too far, and a less-appealing drunk who condescends to his new partner, Moira. The novel sometimes feels like a young-adult story, particularly when it includes specific details on how Tommy makes a periscope out of empty milk cartons. That said, it’s sure to keep adult mystery fans’ attention.
An often delightful murder mystery that treats the concept of reincarnation with respect and sincerity.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985186104

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Nightowlscribe

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2014

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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