This collection astutely highlights the spy thriller, though the much shorter tales offer solid support.

Fables of the CIA

Officers and analysts struggle, whether in the field or behind a desk, in this collection of CIA–centric stories.

Grayson (Strange Science Fiction and Fantasy Omnibus, 2014, etc.) offers only four tales in this book, but they vary in both tone and length. Fortunately, the most exciting story is also the longest, the novella-sized “But Who Pursues?” In it, CIA desk jockey Steve Rogers’ poor job performance is the result of losing his wife and sons. He’s saved from unemployment by pal Mac, who also lands Steve an assignment: tag along with Navy officer George Caruthers to Zurich. Steve, unaware of Caruthers’ objective, is taken aback when the man chains an attaché case to his wrist and hands him a revolver. Things get worse when a bloody Caruthers later returns and, before dying, warns Steve to run. Steve heads back to the U.S. as quickly and covertly as possible, but he’s fairly certain someone’s trailing him, especially once people who try to help him wind up dead. He finally takes the offensive, using funds (courtesy of Caruthers) to buy a newspaper and to hopefully draw out his pursuers with headlines teasing a tell-all article. The story’s rife with suspense; readers, like Steve, don’t know who’s after him, making every character a suspect. The book’s opening tale, “The Station Chief,” is markedly different, an irreverent account of a chief in Senegal, West Africa, so overbearing that agents look for a way to have him transferred somewhere else. In the delightful but straight-faced “The Successful Intelligence Officer,” a by-the-book officer may get the agency to reinstate his terminated recruiting gig by doing something dishonest. “The Intelligence Research Analyst” closes the book with a rather modest tale of an analyst, disgruntled with writing reports, contemplating another position. The author’s meticulous prose works best in “Pursues,” its protagonist appropriately scrupulous in everything he does, including tracking down old contacts or finding places to sleep. Humor, meanwhile, is relegated to the first story and is incongruently off-center: an officer justifies his affair by claiming that he and his wife’s baby was “a monster, with two heads.”

This collection astutely highlights the spy thriller, though the much shorter tales offer solid support.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-57949-7

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2016

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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 steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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