A thrillingly imaginative reinvention of imperial Rome that’s full of suspense and moral drama.


A work of historical fiction, set in the first century, dramatizes the life of Locusta of Gaul, a woman famed for being a skilled poisoner of thousands.

Locusta, whom her father calls the “most beautiful woman in Gaul,” is promised in marriage to the wealthy Faustinus—a prospect that initially delights her. But when she meets him in person, she discovers an ugly, coarse old man who’s capable of unspeakable cruelty; before they’re married, he brutally rapes her. Pricilla, Locusta’s servant and best friend, uses her knowledge of herbal poisons to murder Faustinus in revenge. Pricilla then becomes Locusta’s mentor, teaching her not only which flowers have “lethal seeds, and which deadly blooms,” but also the ways to prudently navigate a “poison-filled world.” The servant counsels and warns simultaneously: “Knowledge of deadly plants is the worst kind….It will end all innocence—shine a light on your soul—make you see the dark workings of your mind and heart—make you question the truths you cling to.” Locusta is sent to Rome to petition Emperor Claudius on behalf of her father, Quintus Metallus Parisii, a vintner who’s dangerously behind on his taxes. Once there, she’s drawn into the dangerous world of political intrigue and compelled to conspire against Claudius. Bardot (Dragon Lady, 2019, etc.) spins a grippingly dark tale about Locusta’s life as an “assassin and peddler of poison” in the service of Claudius’ successor, Emperor Nero, a truly twisted man. The author masterfully portrays the vicious contests for power that characterized Roman politics at the time and the lurid manner in which such political ambition combined with more carnal longings. As Locusta learns from Pricilla about the plight of women in a world dominated by men, readers get the remarkable perspective of a woman who’s vulnerable but resilient. 

A thrillingly imaginative reinvention of imperial Rome that’s full of suspense and moral drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9882092-9-9

Page Count: 474

Publisher: Flores Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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