An engaging thriller that successfully explores the implications of a wicked curse.


From the Black Orchid Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A nature photographer stumbles upon an ultra-rare black orchid—and a deadly curse—in the first installment of Haase’s (Hotel Constellation, 2018) supernatural-thriller series. 

The third wealthiest man in the United Arab Emirates gave American Sebastian Arnett instructions to photograph “the most beautiful, the most delightful, the most interesting” orchids on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. There, Sebastian meets Australian Johnnie Walker in a bar and reluctantly accepts the stranger’s invitation to accompany him and his friends on weekend vacations inland. Sebastian, a heavy drinker who’s still mourning the death of his wife four years ago, thinks that the outings might provide him with opportunities to find more orchids. On the group’s fifth trip, they stop in a village where a mysterious, white-haired Dyak woman presents Sebastian with an extremely rare black orchid. The silent woman leads the group to an area to find more, where Sebastian receives a dart to his cheek. When he wakes up in a bamboo hut a week later, he’s shocked to find the severed heads of his travel companions, a tattoo of a spiderweb on his face, and, most disturbingly, the ability to kill people with his mind. Haase builds a compelling narrative, interweaved with poems and supernatural elements. At one point, an ethnologist tells Sebastian that “the spider web tattoo...houses a powerful spider spirit that requires occasional sacrifices to keep it content.” Various government operatives seek Sebastian out, which provides opportunities for effective meditations on military systems, as when a U.S. Marine tells Sebastian, “We talk about defending our country, but the reality is the way we do that is to kill the other guy before he kills us.” The story also features an intriguing cast, including Amanda Cox Campion, Sebastian’s love interest; and Chief Kahvah Att-un-poon-a-woon-ah, a Native American medicine man who tries to help the photographer battle the spirit. However, Sebastian’s actions will alienate readers at times; for example, he twice refers to the Native American chief as “William Walks-With-Something-or-Other,” and, at one point, he sleeps with the widow of a man that his demonic spirit killed. 

An engaging thriller that successfully explores the implications of a wicked curse.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9994847-3-9

Page Count: 334

Publisher: C. Lawrence Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2018

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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