A satisfying mystery with intriguing psychological underpinnings.

BIG BAD

A troubled FBI agent suspects her sister’s supposed suicide in New England is a scandalous coverup in this novel.

One dangerously stormy winter night, wife and mother Molly Rifkin is reported missing and her body is found in a storage unit. The official report rules it a suicide, but Emma Shane, her loving but estranged sister, doesn’t like the story she’s gotten so far. “I’m going to make sure there isn’t a better one out there,” she declares. She is an FBI agent on a yearlong sabbatical after being shot in the line of duty, but she has become increasingly ambivalent about returning to her job. “There’s no end,” she says at one point. “Catch one today, and there’ll be a hundred more…tomorrow. So what’s the point?” It is with considerable baggage (the most devastating items are unpacked as the book progresses) that she arrives on Rockcliffe Island, population 2,500 and, by car, “twenty minutes, end to end,” according to Guppy, a driver who will become Emma’s chauffeur, friend, and confidant. Here, she challenges the official story. The police chief does not like that. “Am I going to have a problem with you, Ms. Shane?” he asks. “Did you come to Rockcliffe to play Nancy Drew?” Yes, he is going to have a problem with her, as will the wealthy Winthrops, who are just begging to be considered suspects. “Just remember,” Guppy warns Shane about the mother, “If her mouth’s moving, she’s either lying or thinking about lying.” Like Guppy, Galacar (Gilchrist, 2017, etc.) knows every inch of the insular Rockcliffe Island. In true noir fashion, there are dark doings in this seemingly idyllic community, but genre buffs will certainly recognize one character as a bad actor from the start. Once the core mystery is solved, one further disturbing development may be a bridge too far for some readers. Still, the author captures the delicious dread when the blinders fall off. Of a local cop who aids Shane, he writes: “Jim had…gone to a window and looked out at the little island town he’d known his whole life and seen it for the first time with a new forced perspective.”

A satisfying mystery with intriguing psychological underpinnings.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68842-144-8

Page Count: 486

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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