A buoyant, commendable mystery that piles on red herrings with ferocity and glee.

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AN EROTIC NOVEL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE

In this debut thriller, a woman decides to look into the murders of fellow real estate brokers when it seems that someone’s setting her up as a patsy.

Dana Black is one of some 2,000 Realtors in Rock Canyon. It’s a profession that doesn’t get much respect from the townspeople, particularly considering an agent’s underhanded stunt to garner public sympathy and the unexplained disappearance of a “problem client.” So when a couple of agents turn up murdered, cops aren’t very interested. Dana, however, is worried about her lack of alibis. Suffering from intermittent blackouts, she can’t account for her whereabouts during the first murder. BDSM play partner, Dare, is her alibi for the second homicide, but he has reason to keep mum about their encounters. Dana finds an ally in private eye Aidan Cummings, who asks her to join him in questioning locals because they’ll likely be more responsive to a familiar face. It isn’t long before Cummings is more appealing than Dare, despite the detective’s conventional sex life making him boring vanilla. As the murderer continues targeting Realtors, it’s clear a frame-up is in the works (for example, a car that looks suspiciously like Dana’s). With a sordid past and her estrangement from hateful, sickly mom, Cassandra Beckett, and older, top-selling broker sister, Melanie, Dana has incentive to track down a killer. Though the murder mystery’s initially muted, focusing on Dana’s sexual escapades with Dare, Barr’s story gradually becomes a dense, twist-laden excursion. Dana’s history, for one, is rife with trauma—Dad died on her 6th birthday—and curious motives later come to light, including Cassandra wanting no association with her younger daughter. Dana’s not quite as kinky as she asserts, specifically indexing her various limits. Nevertheless, the woman torn between sexually enticing Dare and charming Cummings faces a dishy dilemma. And despite her worries, Dana’s nonexistent alibis aren’t much of an issue; she’s actively involved in the investigation, spearheaded by Cummings (per orders from the short-on-manpower captain), who believes in her innocence. But she’s unequivocally in danger by the end, and the spiraling final act, culminating with the killer’s staggering reveal, is an exhilarating ride.

A buoyant, commendable mystery that piles on red herrings with ferocity and glee.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9977118-1-3

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Punctuated Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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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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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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