The Caine File

This supernatural thriller follows a priest’s investigations into a demonic force he suspects has committed grisly murders.
Ciccolo’s debut combines both strong supernatural elements and political power in a typical thriller centering on exorcism. Early, Detective Luby discovers a skinned body in a jail, which, along with two suicides, is connected directly to the prestigious Charleroi family. Investigations point to Sam Charleroi, who has been mysteriously ill and manifesting what appear to be dark forces in his family’s home. Despite his strong initial skepticism about the need for an exorcism, especially since it seems that the Catholic Church’s Cardinal Lowell is attempting to silence (or possibly kill) Sam in order to conceal a sex abuse scandal, professor/priest Malveaux discovers evidence of a similar demonic power in a file created by demonology researcher Seamus Caine, as well as even more evidence surrounding the mysterious Harold Gamble. Unfortunately, the novel isn’t a page-turner. Much of the investigation is moot thanks to early indications that the force involved is demonic, and early mentions of the potential demon’s name empty out the later search. Standard crime-scene methods like fingerprinting reveal details easily instead of allowing readers to do the work of discovering them. Natural dialogue keeps many of the characters in order, yet the narrative tends to summarize how the characters feel rather than infusing their emotions and reactions into the story: “He understood forgiveness very well as far as he was concerned. It was not easy to forgive, but it certainly wasn’t something that was given automatically.” Still, genuinely freaky events, such as Sam’s conversations with invisible beings, give this novel some scary merit. It’s too bad an occasional gag compromises these moments, shattering the uncanny with silliness.
Despite lackluster plot development, this thriller’s creepy moments provide some nightmare fodder.

Pub Date: May 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615971933

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Carthage Road

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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