A frothy adventure with a cache of inventive weaponry and a final surprise.

MURDER, CURLERS & KEGS

A hair salon owner finds herself in the middle of another murder mystery, much to the dismay of her favorite police detective.

Valentine Beaumont, owner of Beaumont’s beauty parlor, is having a very bad morning. First, she poked her eye with her mascara wand. Then she walked out on her porch only to discover that somebody had left an upright sex toy there with a perm rod wrapped around it—an ominous reference to the time she caught a murderer by using a similar implement to injure his “family jewels.” It’s clear that the most infamous stylist in Rueland, Massachusetts, is being stalked. Still, she shows up to help her friend Jimmy O’Shea get ready for the grand opening of his new pub, the Wee Irish Dude. (Jimmy was a California surfer before moving to Rueland years ago.) As Valentine and the entertainingly offbeat staff at Beaumont’s begin to clean and set up, a large beer keg comes crashing down the pub’s staircase. It breaks open, revealing the dead body of Jimmy’s cousin, Dooley. McFarlane’s (Murders, Curlers & Cruises, 2018, etc.) fourth volume of her madcap mystery series is off to a rousing start as the police arrive, headed by Michael Romero, a man that Valentine calls a “extremely sexy, ruggedly handsome, tough police detective.” He brings more bad news: Ziggy Stoaks, the killer taken down by Valentine’s perm rod, has escaped from prison. This beach-read lark is part cozy mystery and part farce, as when Valentine defends herself by squirting hand lotion into the mouth of a gun-wielding assailant. The feisty, pleasantly sarcastic heroine is an able narrator who can turn just about anything in her bag of beauty supplies into an imaginative weapon—even if it’s just a rubber band. Well-paced action scenes and two romantic suitors add to the fun. Of the latter, Romero has the inside track, but McFarlane makes Jock, an Argentinian hair stylist, very tempting.

A frothy adventure with a cache of inventive weaponry and a final surprise.

Pub Date: July 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9953076-7-4

Page Count: 196

Publisher: ParadiseDeer Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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