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SUBURRA

While the complex plot intrigues, there is so much violence, so much dirty scheming, that even when the “good guys” win,...

Rome is a hotbed of political corruption, violence, and scheming at the end of Silvio Berlusconi’s reign as prime minister in this modern Mafia novel.

Some of the most powerful Mafia families in town, led by a shadowy figurehead known as Samurai, are taking advantage of the unrest to hatch a multibillion dollar plan to build a luxury waterfront development that will also give them full control of the nearby port of Ostia. But Mafia egos are notoriously delicate, and, inevitably, murder will undercut the spirit of "family" cooperation. The novel begins with a politician covering up the death of a prostitute he's just had sex with, which leads a relatively unimportant gang member to overestimate his power. When he ends up murdered, the response from his family is swift. In the middle of this vicious quagmire stands one smart and noble Carabinieri, Marco Malatesta, himself a product of the violent streets. With help from the magistrate Michelangelo de Candia and a firebrand leftist named Alice Savelli, Marco not only uncovers the complex plans and the murders at their heart, but also sets his sights on Samurai, determined to catch the puppet master once and for all. The novel is set in a very specific time, and it is a novel of Rome, meaning that the city itself, in all its history, glory, and despair, is skillfully sewn into the fiber of the tale. At the same time, there is something old-fashioned about the narrative, because it clearly evokes Mario Puzo’s famous trilogy and other classics of the genre. It can be hard to keep track of all the characters, but loose ends are admirably tied up in the end.

While the complex plot intrigues, there is so much violence, so much dirty scheming, that even when the “good guys” win, it’s hard to muster up much hope for Rome itself.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60945-407-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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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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