Astute prose and an unwavering pace energized by first-rate characters and subplots.

THE ENIGMA DRAGON

A CATS TALE

From the The Enigma Series series

In this ninth volume of Breakfield and Burkey’s (The Enigma Broker, 2017, etc.) techno-thriller series, a covert team tracks groups who are moving information and funds using nondigital means.

The latest assignment for Julie and Juan Rodríguez’s Cyber Assassin Technology Services involves more footwork than is typical for them. Julie dispatches team members to various locales from Panama to Singapore to track “AIMs”—“analog information mules” working for a global energy company called ePETRO. The AIMs handle business transactions by word of mouth in order to subvert any digital surveillance. Marge Barger and Mike Patrick of ePETRO have good reason for maintaining secrecy, as they’re currently buying oil illegally from Muslim terrorists and selling it to the North Korean government. Julie goes undercover as a woman named Jackeline Cooper and lands a job at ePETRO’s London office, while other CATS members, including Tyler Hebert and Ernesto Gleen in New York, search for AIMs in order to record the contacts that they make. It’s not as mundane as it sounds, as information mules aren’t easy to trail. But then CATS members, including Julie, inexplicably vanish, and Juan and the remaining members must ensure that everyone gets home safely as they attempt to thwart ePETRO’s nefarious plans. By this point in their long-running series, Breakfield and Burkey have mastered the art of telling a story with myriad characters. They’ve amassed a wealth of recurring heroes, which, in this installment, generates a wide variety of storylines; CATS member Brayson Morris in Panama, for example, is apparently disenchanted and may be ready to leave the team. However, it’s the villains that steal the spotlight this time around. There’s obvious dissention among them, resulting in a string of double-crossings and scenes that brim with tension. Marge and Mike, in particular, aren’t telling each other everything; for example, a solo Marge strives to meet the North Koreans’ demand for uranium on her own. This second CATS-centric installment (after 2016’s The Enigma Gamers) will leave readers yearning for more.

Astute prose and an unwavering pace energized by first-rate characters and subplots.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946858-24-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: ICABOD Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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