An immersive and substantial murder mystery with a strong heroine.


In this fish-out-of-water thriller, a Richmond reporter takes on a curious homicide case in Appalachian Virginia.

Television reporter Taylor Beckett is not initially interested in driving from Richmond all the way to southwest Virginia to cover the detection of three bodies, all men, each found sealed in a plastic drum and dumped in the woods. “Somebody’s moonshine gig gone bad, probably,” thinks Taylor. “Or dope. Always dope in that part of the state.” But once she gets there, she realizes there is more to the story than meets the eye. For one, the men were all killed by a different method. For another, Eric Blevins, a sensitive, animal-loving teenage water utility employee who found the first victim, has a name very similar to that of a man from Taylor’s past. She successfully coaxes Eric into talking to her, no mean feat in the highly secretive holler culture of Randall County. Haunted by an unresolved trauma from her past, Taylor throws herself into investigating the murders, especially since the local authorities don’t appear particularly interested in doing so. Little does she know she will be forced to wade through a quagmire of corruption, addiction, prostitution, animal cruelty, and a generationslong suspicion of outsiders in her attempt to solve a case that gets right to the heart of modern Appalachia. Ryan’s (Wingspan, 2017, etc.) prose is textured and lived-in, particularly when describing the settings and people of Randall County. “It’s not odd,” says Eric, when Taylor asks him about a man shooting a hunting dog. “Not around here. A dog don’t do the job, it serves no purpose. Hunters kill ’em all the time. Leave ’em in the woods. Trade ’em, dump ’em, whatever.” Taylor—a jaded but ambitious loner who knows how to handle her male co-workers—will read as a bit overly familiar to fans of the genre, but her well-developed backstory provides an intriguing ballast and helps explain her drive to find answers. On the whole, the author manages to move beyond crime novel clichés and expose the deeper ills of the society in which her tale is set.

An immersive and substantial murder mystery with a strong heroine.

Pub Date: April 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73360-400-0

Page Count: 375

Publisher: Tanglebranch Manor

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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