A cartoonish thriller that treads too often into male fantasies about dominating women.

PALIMPSEST

From the Andrew MacCrimmon series , Vol. 5

A doctor and crime fighter gets pulled into an Old West–style showdown in this fifth installment of a series.

Dr. Andrew MacCrimmon is having a rough couple of days. First, he walks in on his wife, Karen, in bed with her personal trainer, Pavo Makkonen. Next, Andrew tries to shoot Pavo, but the naked man manages to escape down the back alleyway. Then, Andrew throws Karen bodily from the house with a few choice expletives. A few days later, during an aimless drive to help figure out what to do with himself, he is mugged, carjacked, and left unconscious in the desert. He is discovered by good Samaritan Bob Seibel, the owner of the BS Tavern and Grill in Chamberton, California. In exchange for Bob’s kindness, Andrew agrees to run the place while Bob and his wife go on vacation. It seems like a nice, calm spot to get his thoughts in order, slinging beers to the few regulars who come through the door. Not so. Enter Lena Montoya, a mysterious woman who looks remarkably like Karen: “The resemblance was astonishing—the same triangular face and squared off chin; the same high cheekbones, straight nose, and strong mouth.” What’s more, she seems to be on the run from someone—perhaps the same men who mugged Andrew. Even after he learns that her husband is a ruthless Mexican drug lord, he allows himself to become enamored by the beautiful Lena. He hatches a plan to keep her safe from her husband’s hired men, who have begun to swarm the area. At the same time, he begins receiving anonymous letters about the fate of his wife and son back in San Francisco. The situation quickly reveals itself to be much more complex—and interconnected—than Andrew realized. Caught between his past and present, is it even possible for Andrew to keep everyone he loves safe? Croft’s (Thorns of Remembrance, 2019, etc.) novel successfully summons the feel of an old action movie, particularly its neo-Western setting filled with outlaws and henchmen. But the book quickly and unintentionally turns into a parody of itself. The author seeks to portray Andrew as an honorable, aging doctor/brawler whom everyone finds attractive. One of Karen’s friends observes, “He’s so muscular, and he looks so ageless, like Sean Connery or Paul Newman,” and even the cartel members who mug him remember him as “good-looking.” Yet Andrew’s jealous, violent, and frantic behavior early on is so disturbing that his good-guy antics later won’t salvage readers’ opinions of him. He destroys Pavo’s motorcycle while fantasizing that it’s Karen. Later, he “blew his nose and wiped his eyes, and whispered to the room, as if in disbelief, ‘I’m a cuckold.’ And again, louder: ‘I’m a cuckold!’ ” When he calms down, he writes Karen a note, the first sentence of which reads: “Even the most sincere apology would be ridiculously inadequate for the brutal way I treated you, something like Hitler apologizing to the Jews.” The ending—where readers learn the context of how Karen came to sleep with Pavo—is needlessly exploitative (and not the first time Croft has gone to that well). 

A cartoonish thriller that treads too often into male fantasies about dominating women.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4811-0361-9

Page Count: 305

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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