A verbose continental adventure, but one with menace, intrigue, and a few pleasant surprises.

Debts Are Always Due

An American businessman tries to save his ex-lover from European criminals in Welles’ debut thriller.

Mike McKenzie had spent some time in Prague after grad school and remembers the time fondly. But he’s surprised to get a phone call one night and find out that his Czech ex-boyfriend, Evžen Srnck, is now in trouble and needs his help; he’s on the run from some gangsters and has fled to Paris. Mike, who’s filled with nostalgia and some degree of desire for Evžen, boards a plane and heads to France. Once there, Mike learns that his ex had been lured into a scheme in which a Czech mafia don gave him money upfront to buy a bar, but then demanded repayment quickly in large installments. An almost broke Evžen escaped from Prague, but the Czechs have sent thugs to Paris to hunt him down. Mike must protect him, and later himself, as they race around Paris in an increasingly dangerous cat-and-mouse game. As Mike falls headfirst into the drama and peril of his ex’s predicament, he and “rent boy” Christophe become lovers. When the mobsters eventually kidnap Evžen, Mike and Christophe team up with Lt. René Jacques of the Paris police to stage a rescue. Welles’ caper is certainly fast-paced and rarely takes a breath as the novel goes on. Through all the calamities, Mike notes that “he’d already seen and done things he wouldn’t have believed himself capable of just twenty-four hours before.” Indeed, the author fills the book with seedy bars, ancient hotels, stashed guns, shady deals, and escapes out windows. The story’s circuitous nature makes it seem somewhat convoluted, long-winded, and a bit repetitive at times. Still, it’s often hair-raising, and it even has time for a few moments of romantic longing.

A verbose continental adventure, but one with menace, intrigue, and a few pleasant surprises.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5350-2200-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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