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WOMEN IN CARS

A first-class whodunit and a witty, clever, and delightful read.

Leggett (Prosperity, 2014, etc.) delivers a murder mystery that also skewers university politics.

Chancellor Michael Joseph O’Connor of Western Appalachian University in Knoxville, Tennessee, is facing a crisis. Just three weeks before the university’s budget is to be approved, the corpse of J. Hollis Sanders, head of the English Department, is found in Sanders’ office, and he’s evidently has been dead for a week. O’Connor wants to minimize any scandal that might arise from the inevitable investigation. Speaking with his colleagues, he echoes one of the narrative’s major themes: “There’s nothing more uninteresting than a dead man. What’s interesting is how he got to be dead.” His goal is to “keep the story as uninteresting as possible.” Unfortunately, the hastily assembled administrators decide to hire a man named Robert Cory to act as a liaison between the campus police and the Knoxville police and to manage all press releases. He’s told not to investigate the crime, but, of course, that’s exactly what he does. Cory is independently wealthy and a bit of a hermit; since his divorce, he’s retreated from all his friends, but Jack Abbott, one formerly close buddy, is a member of the English department, so he figures that there’s no harm in talking to him about the dead man. Leggett has chosen the perfect setting for a novel filled with gossip, speculation, and engaging philosophical debate. It’s great fun to follow along with Cory as he winds his way through a university and encounters fragile egos, back-stabbing, and secret foibles. O’Connor accurately describes his faculty to the Inspector of Campus Safety and Security: “these are very sensitive, perceptive people. They’re accustomed to reading more into things than is actually there—they call it literary criticism.” Cory confronts his own demons during this quest to discover the truth about the murder, and he makes a fine guide for readers as he does so.

A first-class whodunit and a witty, clever, and delightful read.

Pub Date: June 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60489-205-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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