First-timer Schaffer, a public defender, packs too much writing into too little space—but it’s fun, nonetheless, making a...


A case of public indecency escalates to capital murder while the music of Barry Manilow plays on.

De-frocked CPA and recovering alcoholic Harold Dunn is the latest case for public defender Gordon Seegerman. Dunn was arrested in a department store for flashing an eight-year-old girl and a hooker, a seedy little crime that for some reason has him locked up in tightest security. Seegerman, who was hoping for a little time off the job to prepare for his band’s performance in front of his idol, Barry Manilow, finds the nerdy little criminal unwilling to plead anything but innocent. Worse, the DA on the case is Seegerman’s ex-girlfriend Silvie and she’s out for blood. She wants Dunn locked up big time. With the help of his band’s bass player Terry, Gordon starts poking into Dunn’s pathetic background, which includes a prior exposure ten years earlier in Portland when he was still on the sauce. Shortly after interviewing one the hookers, who turns out to be kind of sympathetic to Dunn, turns up strangled, and Dunn, whose excessively high bail was mysteriously met, has disappeared. Further sleuthing leads Gordon and Terry through the thickets of the biggest homeless charity in the city (a barely disguised Oakland) where Dunn kept the books, an organization with ties to the powerful including Silvie’s husband. Between the investigation and the rehearsals, Seegerman spends time with his dad, a cop whose spectacular career was ended by early-onset Alzheimer’s, a threat that now hangs over the son. There is a possible flirtation with a mysterious beauty, but it seems to go nowhere. As the evidence piles up on the murder, Dunn continues to want a jury trial on the flashing. Thank goodness for those inspiring Manilow songs, Seegerman’s only real comfort.

First-timer Schaffer, a public defender, packs too much writing into too little space—but it’s fun, nonetheless, making a good case for both Manilow and Oakland.

Pub Date: June 12, 2004

ISBN: 1-58234-460-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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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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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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