An exceptional story that derives its frights from both supernatural and corporeal aspects.

FORGOTTEN MEN

THE BAYOU HAUNTINGS

From the Bayou Hauntings series , Vol. 2

A deputy’s personal investigation into a reputedly haunted building in Louisiana links a string of unexplained and seemingly unrelated deaths in this suspense sequel.

The most terrifying experience in Landry Drake’s life was when, dared by his older brother, he spent an hour in the Asylum. The 200-year-old structure, residing in the ghost town of Victory, Louisiana, is known as the state’s “most haunted building.” Beginning as a hotel in the 1800s, the edifice became a maximum security prison at the turn of the century and housed violent, mentally unstable inmates. The locals dubbed it the Asylum, which was eventually shut down due to widespread abuse of prisoners by vicious guards. Since then, rumors have claimed that the dead inmates haunt the place. Twelve years after his ordeal, 20-something Landry, now an Iberia Parish deputy sheriff, is still disturbed by the voices he’s certain he heard back then. He researches the Asylum and learns 13 unsolved murders have occurred there in the last three decades. Landry later teams up with Cate Adams, daughter of the building’s current owner, and soon uncovers a connection among the killings as well as other puzzling local deaths. He struggles to unravel the mystery despite the sheriff’s orders to stop spending his night shifts on amateur sleuthing. Meanwhile, two brutal thugs and longtime prison escapees Mack Thorn and Sam Gold are regular squatters at the Asylum. Their lives ultimately intersect with Landry’s and Cate’s, precipitating a savage encounter in a building that’s very likely already inhabited by ghosts. Notwithstanding its haunted-house scenario, Thompson’s (Callie, 2017, etc.) novel is more mystery than horror. Supernatural elements, for one, are ambiguous: The voices Landry (and others) has heard in the Asylum could easily belong to humans who are very much alive. Moreover, the introduction of Mack and Sam not only provides the story with an unmistakable menace, but also hints at the possibility that the two men are the haunters. The author sets an unnerving tone with straightforward but engrossing writing. The history of the Asylum, for example, is an extended segment that never loiters thanks to meticulous and harrowing details of the guards’ mistreatment of inmates. Similarly, the story’s atmosphere is often ominous, even when outside Asylum walls: “Dense, low-hanging storm clouds rolled in fast. Summer storms popped up in the humid evenings, and a rumble of thunder gave a preview of what to expect.” Landry and Cate’s immediate attraction doesn’t spark much romance but does pair the protagonist with a much-needed ally. Yet it’s the eccentric supporting characters who truly add depth to the narrative. Standouts include Cate’s father, whose purchase of cheap, unwanted properties has netted him 200 parcels in Louisiana, and a spooky, immoral preacher who has no qualms about trespassing. Much of the final act unfolds inside the Asylum, clarifying the mysteries while putting both Landry and Cate in peril. There are also a couple of surprises that are quite effective. These are trailed by an explanation and wrap-up that’s largely unnecessary (Thompson’s plot is coherent throughout) but fortunately not prolonged.

An exceptional story that derives its frights from both supernatural and corporeal aspects.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9979129-8-2

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Asendente Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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