No More Illusions. . .A Mystery

In the first volume of this California-based mystery series, middle-aged rookie cop Dylan Blake gets pulled into a murder case that recalls his own painful past.

Forty-something Blake is enjoying some time alone in nature in Big Sur when he receives a call from Chief Cooper, his top boss back at the Sierra Springs Police Department. Kate Winslow, a local businesswoman and ex-wife and sister to rich men, is concerned about the car accident that took the life of Jack Hamilton, the business partner she just fired. Since Hamilton’s car went over a cliff near where Blake is vacationing, Cooper asks Blake to scope out the crash scene. On his climb up after completing this task, Blake is nearly killed by someone throwing rocks from above. While local police initially dismiss Hamilton’s death as a suicide, Blake continues to investigate, soon meeting up with the alluring Kate, her sleazy ex-husband, and their 20-something daughter, Allison, who is living on her own and working as a prostitute. Blake senses that the Winslows are dealing with issues similar to those faced by his own family, which led to his depression and divorce; he got back on track only recently when he joined the force. When Kate’s ex-husband shows up dead, events escalate, putting Blake’s life once again in jeopardy. Kate’s brother in Utah rises up as a nemesis, and even Blake’s mother in Georgia gets threatened before there’s a resolution of sorts to the murky case. First-time novelist Babka weaves a multilayered tale that has shades of California noir à la Chinatown. Blake’s desire for connection as well as escape through nature is affectingly portrayed, and his interactions with the damaged Allison are particularly touching. However, Babka’s narrative occasionally gets bogged down in his protagonist’s back story, his various tics (e.g., trying to eat healthy) and key relationships, including those with a new girlfriend and a local African-American boy. Still, there’s rich material to mine in this strong start to a new series.

Accomplished, ambitious crime fiction launching a sensitive, complex hero and a promising array of supporting characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9910601-2-2

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Blue Squirrel Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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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