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THE PHILOSOPHICAL DETECTIVE

THE TRUE STORY OF AN IMAGINARY GENTLEMAN

An intelligent, original detective novel.

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A heady mystery for the literary set.

In his latest outing, Hartman (The Rules of Dreaming, 2013) delivers a suspenseful, pitch-perfect novel with an unlikely lead detective: a fictionalized version of iconic Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). The story takes place outside Boston in 1967, as recollected by narrator Nick Martin—an ailing elderly man who once spent a semester as Borges’ graduate assistant and amateur gumshoe sidekick while the author was a visiting lecturer. Shortly after the eccentric Borges’ arrival, a murder within Nick’s department is revealed to have a surprise literary twist, and he and the author team up to solve the crime. The murder turns out to be the first in a series of strange tragedies in the area, all with some sort of connection to literature or philosophy. The crimes fit in well with Borges’ latest academic fascination, Thomas De Quincey’s 1827 satirical essay “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,” and Nick and Borges have long philosophic discourses at a local coffee shop, where they discuss the nature of reality as Nick pines for a beautiful waitress. “The world is crowded with illusionists,” Borges declares during one case, “trying to pass off an imperfect copy of something as the real thing.” Indeed, the world Hartman conjures certainly is crowded with illusionists. Although the prose is sometimes heavy with words that feel as if they were plucked from a thesaurus (“Inevitably the conversation gravitated to the purpose of our visit”), the author’s fine-tuned intellect and vivid reimagining of Borges make for a thought-provoking and compelling read. Plot points that might initially seem hard to believe are, more often than not, not quite what they seem, as Hartman’s story always stays two steps ahead of the reader. Enthusiasts of both philosophy and slick detective stories are sure to enjoy this probing inquiry into humanity’s darker impulses. Borges fans, in particular, will appreciate the book’s clever take on metafiction—not to mention the character’s sly quips: “Don’t the police in this country read Sherlock Holmes?”

An intelligent, original detective novel.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Swallow Tail Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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