An entertaining, if occasionally meandering, political-conspiracy tale.

SUCCESSION

AND THE UNTHINKABLE USE OF POLITICAL POWER

McBee (Counterpoint, 2012) brings back affable Secret Service agent Jack Connolly in this humorous tale of political intrigue.

Connolly, the assistant director of the Secret Service, is in charge of security for Vice President Melissa Callen as she and President Giordan make an appearance in Dallas on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The action begins when President Giordan is himself assassinated, and Callen is given a drug that causes her to temporarily forget her identity. The confused but still resourceful vice president manages to evade her security detail and ends up at the office of psychiatrist Andres Devendorf. Connolly and Devendorf protect Melissa as they work together to try to unravel a conspiracy at the highest levels of government. President Giordan’s duplicitous Chief of Staff Margaret Wise and a crooked senator attempt to pass off Callen’s jealous, ex-convict twin sister, Linda, as the new president—one whom they can control and dispense with as needed. Meanwhile, the chief of staff’s two hapless henchmen—and one of Devendorf’s deranged patients—pursue Connolly, Devendorf and a recovering Callen across the country. Despite the high-stakes plot, readers will likely find this thriller more lighthearted than suspenseful—the henchmen, for example, are clearly too inept to be a threat to the heroes. The story develops without the jarring twists and shocking revelations that readers might expect from a political thriller. However, Connolly’s narration of the scenes in which he appears is consistently offbeat and enjoyable, even if some of his jokes and attempts at political commentary don’t hit the mark.

An entertaining, if occasionally meandering, political-conspiracy tale.      

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479276172

Page Count: 336

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2013

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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