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PERFECT PROPHET

An edgy, swiftly paced thriller with laudable female characters.

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A metal band guitarist realizes he’s an essential part of a satanic cult’s dark prophecy in this supernatural novel.

Alec Lowell takes a gunshot to the heart during a performance with his Los Angeles band, the Great. Though the unidentified shooter gets away, Alec miraculously survives. His near-death prompts a reunion with Belinda Allen, the girlfriend he left years ago. When he learns the two have a son, Jake, Alec returns to Wisconsin with Belinda. While Alec is constantly paranoid that someone is watching him, Belinda suggests he make amends with his estranged family: his father, Brent, and younger sister, Ilene. But Brent, a devout Roman Catholic, had been abusive, which led to the Great’s ostensibly satanic stage performances—though they’re only for notoriety. Alec is later startled by the news that his dad had actually belonged to a satanic cult. Keeping an eye on Alec in Wisconsin is a reputed Great fan, Lucas, who readers know is a cult member. It seems the “secret Satan society” believes Alec is a prophet, who may play a role in the Dark Lord’s ultimate rise to power. But gathering intelligence on the cult is dangerous, as members target Belinda, Jake, and even Alec, when he proves to be an uncooperative prophet. Johnson’s (The Schoharie, 2017) thriller thrives on suspense, because many characters surrounding Alec may belong to the mysterious cult. Supernatural elements slowly creep in but don’t overwhelm the plot; Alec, for one, has an apparent healing capability. While the author truly excels at character development, including Lucas’ unsettling backstory, the men are generally dense and make questionable decisions. But the women are exceptional, from Belinda to the Great’s lead singer, Claire “Cleo” LeCroix, who calls everyone “hon,” a term either affectionate or condescending, depending on whom she’s speaking to. Despite the book’s heavy religious overtones, the story stays fairly middle-of-the-road, attributing good or evil to individuals rather than their beliefs. The final act piles on twists, and though one is predictable, the others are genuinely shocking.

An edgy, swiftly paced thriller with laudable female characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5439-3948-4

Page Count: 376

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2019

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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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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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