A satisfying, involving, and well-paced story that effectively blends action and redemption.


An apolitical English professor vows vengeance against the Mexican drug cartel that has infiltrated his hometown in this novel.

The cartel Segundo Cortez is escalating its reign of terror in the Mexican city of Veracruz. Its soldiers roam the streets hassling citizens with impunity. They have bribed policemen and become more brazen in their violence. But 32-year-old university professor Nicolás Nolano has elected to “keep out of all that business” and just “concentrate on my profession.” His mother; his brother, Esteban, a district attorney; and a local priest, meanwhile, are very public activists against the cartel. Esteban has recently filed suit against the cartel’s leader, Arturo Méndez. Nicolás insists that they would be better off keeping a low profile. “Laying low and biding your time is not how change is won in the world,” the priest counters. Nicolás’ warning that they are all setting themselves up “for tragedy” inevitably comes true, and he is alerted that he will be next. Though “merely a professor,” the radicalized Nicolás flees to America, where he plans to acquire weapons and training and then return “to strike at Segundo Cortez.” Wall (Water Lessons, 2014) has fashioned a fast-moving, immensely readable payback story. But Nicolás’ transformation might have carried more dramatic weight if on Page 2 he didn’t come to the rescue of a former student being hassled by Cortez thugs or soon after take heroic action to transport another young cartel victim to the hospital. Some dialogue is heavy-handed, as this exchange between Esteban and his brother: “Me, the idealistic attorney. You, the cynical literature professor. Damn, just like when we were boys. You always off in your bedroom, in your own universe, your nose in a book, dreaming. While I was out living. Making dreams into reality.” Ivan Méndez, an increasingly unstable successor to his father (and a former friend of Nicolás), is straight out of central casting. More nuanced is Hector Pantano, the compromised police chief, who has enabled the cartel but is suffering a crisis of conscience.

A satisfying, involving, and well-paced story that effectively blends action and redemption.

Pub Date: June 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-938749-44-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Enchanted Indie Press

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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