A promising, if flawed, debut for fans of action and intrigue.

VAULTS OF POWER

Echer's debut novel is a thriller about a mysterious manuscript and its global, historical reach.

Fans of summer thriller blockbusters should find plenty to like here. The main protagonist, Robyn Gabriel, is clearly established from the outset as a strong, capable and sexually liberated character. She’s a treasure hunter, has a strong relationship with a childhood friend and current business partner and, though estranged from her family, she is willing to drop everything to go to her sister’s aid when she’s in trouble. One of the main antagonists, James McIntyre, is equally well drawn; Echer provides compelling details such as how the powerful VP at the Fed who is trying to acquire a manuscript whose secrets could topple nations also has to deal with a teenage daughter acting out. The story is complicated and can seem sluggish for the first 100 pages as Echer sets all the pieces in motion. But when things are actually moving, the author has a great feel for action and pacing and features some thrilling sequences in compelling locations from European crypts to a library at Yale. But Echer is perhaps too ambitious, and the reader’s threshold for coincidence—finding a caterpillar that only lives during certain seasons on a certain island, McIntyre’s daughter’s college connections—may be tested. Some elements of the final resolution seem to come together too neatly, and one character that pops up at the beginning of the story, disappears and then isn’t heard from until the last couple of pages. Stylistically, Echer often strives for the language of the hardboiled detective genre. It often works, but there are stretches where pronouns are dropped to keep the action flowing where the style becomes distracting. But Echer has a great eye for detail; it’s easy to visualize her characters and their settings, to see the action unfolding. And Echer is adept at choreographing action scenes. She clearly describes what the façade of a building looks like, works that into how a character approaches that building and even describes the smells that greet her characters once they are inside.

A promising, if flawed, debut for fans of action and intrigue.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0984817108

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Chicoine Editions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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