LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS

Deftly written, pleasantly concise stories about the ghosts of desire, each with its own discrete merits.

A secondary character from Gabaldon’s Outlander series steps out in three supernatural yarns.

Conflicted raconteur Lord John Grey, last seen in Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (2007), is back. This triptych includes two stories culled from historical anthologies and one original tale published here for the first time. Gabaldon’s strengths are on full display. The short form forces her to curtail the sprawl evident in the recent Outlander novels, while the historical backdrop serves to showcase her exhaustive research. With his unrequited passion for the Scottish rebel Jamie Fraser still fresh in his mind, Grey stumbles into a secret society hidden in London in “Lord John and the Hellfire Club.” Temptation, blackmail and murder ensue as Grey negotiates the minefields of the British class system. An old-fashioned ghost story lies at the heart of “Lord John and the Succubus,” a companion story to the Prussia-set Brotherhood of the Blade. In the midst of the Seven Years’ War, Grey must establish the connection between a murdered soldier and a towering gypsy temptress with a secret worth keeping. The last story, “Lord John and the Haunted Soldier,” cagily incorporates a thrilling bit of detective work as the noble major ferrets out a traitorous cannoneer among a Royal Artillery Regiment. This last story is the freshest and most thorough portrait of Gabaldon’s multifaceted leading man, so troubled by the events that overtake him. “God knows I am neither ignorant nor innocent of the ways of the world. And yet I feel so unclean, so much evil I have met tonight,” he writes.

Deftly written, pleasantly concise stories about the ghosts of desire, each with its own discrete merits.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-31139-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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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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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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