Witty and stimulating, albeit demanding, entertainment.

THE DEVIL’S COMPANY

The Edgar Award winner’s serial protagonist Benjamin Weaver (The Whiskey Rebels, 2008, etc.) grapples with financial chicanery and diversified villains in 18th-century London.

Someone has provoked the vengeful ire of wealthy Jerome Cobb, who engages Benjamin, a burly thieftaker and constable for hire (think Dog the Bounty Hunter with a more elevated habit of speech and a courtlier demeanor), to look into the suspicious death of one Absalom Pepper—whose sole known characteristic, apparently, is his ridiculous name. As Benjamin plies his unauthorized trade, gentlemanly and socially insignificant bad guys pop up everywhere, sorely testing his brains and brawn (he’s also an expert pugilist). Some of Benjamin’s best friends and dearest relations, it turns out, have made the unstable Cobb’s ever-lengthening enemies list. For example, Benjamin’s beloved uncle Miguel Lienzo, a prosperous importer who himself played detective most engagingly in The Coffee Trader (2003), has seen a costly cargo of wine “lost” while being shipped from Europe to England. As the plots thicken, blood is spilled, beautiful women are compromised; the powerful East India Company is victimized by commercial espionage; and almost everybody’s trusted servant seems to be working for a minimum of two masters. The signature flaw in the author’s impressively erudite series is his passion to educate us. So much specific historical, cultural, industrial and commercial information is crammed into this otherwise streamlined narrative that the reader’s brain seizes up in self-defense, hoping to avert overload; in the process, alas, it’s easy to get lost from chapter to chapter. Reading Liss is almost as much of a task as a pleasure, but it is a pleasure, and for those who hang in there, the rewards are quite considerable.

Witty and stimulating, albeit demanding, entertainment.

Pub Date: July 14, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6419-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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