This debut by a Michigan educational assessor is very much a book, not a collection of individual poems, all about the turn- of-century murderer known as Jack the Ripper. It’s also easy to see why Richard Howard, who, as the series editor, provides an introduction, was attracted to Buchanan’s elaborate construction: the bulk of the poems are dramatic monologues, a form best practiced in our time by Howard himself. The first sections of this grim volume are the weakest: Jack addresses a number of the women he murdered, providing the sick rationale for his acts. In one case, he fancies himself a poet inspired by Poe, in another an avenging angel. Each victim responds in kind: one sees her parents in Jack’s evil face, another speaks from the afterlife of vengeful witchcraft, and, best of all, one dispels his Poe pretensions. Buchanan’s voices in this early section seldom vary, and Jack sounds more like Jack Nicholson in The Shining than any fin de siäcle rogue. Buchanan interrupts his book with a prose section, “Ripperology,” that rehearses the evidence for the main real-life suspects in the case. After this, his verse truly takes off: each Jack, in language suitable to his background, explains his reasons for murder: the butcher confesses his grotesque love of necrophilia, cannibalism, and sex with meat; a priest describes sacramental killing as God’s will; and the failed poet (a real-life tutor to the Queen’s grandson) relies on bad ballads and rhymes to justify his actions. The two most plausible suspects, the Queen’s physician and her grandson, the Duke of Clarence, are motivated by drug-addiction and syphilitic madness. The woman-hating language of the speakers and the gruesome details of their actions are not for the faint of heart. But Buchanan has achieved something clever and powerful here: he’s revealed the mysteries of identity at the heart of a Victorian murder mystery.

Pub Date: July 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-57003-297-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Univ. of South Carolina

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999

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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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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