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Naked Shall I Return

A ROSS DUNCAN NOVEL

An often entertaining novel featuring some humor and some mystery.

In the latest novel from Bartley (Every Secret Thing, 2014, etc.), the moral and cynical gangster Ross Duncan hunts for a Chinese antique with a long history in storied San Francisco.

In September 1934, Duncan takes part in a bank robbery with some other New York gangland types, which goes smoothly—except for a double cross involving a man named Fingers Pete. Months later, Duncan winds up in San Francisco with some hot gems to fence and a score to settle with Fingers, a dangerous killer with a trademark .22-caliber pistol. When Duncan’s connection proposes a job involving a mysterious auction lot and a chance to get back at Fingers, he decides to investigate. The job starts with a mysterious question (“What do you think about immortality?”) that starts Duncan off on a quest to piece together the history of the artifact, from ancient China through Chinese immigration to San Francisco’s Mayor Adolf Sutro. In previous books, Duncan demonstrated a knack for getting into situations that involved delving into a lot of history: your average detective might investigate an unhappy marriage, but Duncan’s mysteries tend to involve larger historical forces as well. This installment demonstrates some surprising violence and some neat detection (as when Duncan notices a dust-free picture frame). However, he also spends a good amount of time listening to other characters’ history lessons. Duncan’s a fine guide to this world, however, with his mix of tenderness and coolness: when he finds the dying, innocent girl, for example, he comforts her in her last moments; when he finds the dead body of a less-innocent person, he notes that “He had everything except a pulse now.” Overall, though, as interesting as the history is, readers may wish that Duncan had a bit more to do.

An often entertaining novel featuring some humor and some mystery.

Pub Date: July 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78036-286-1

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Peach Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2015

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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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