Nothing like a cat-astrophe, then, but a collection hardly worthy of its lordly subject—or its editor’s long advocacy...

KITTENS, CATS AND CRIME

Among the many hats he wears, novelist/storyteller/editor Gorman is the unrivaled king of cat anthologists (Cat Crimes Through Time, 1999, etc.). Unfortunately, the eight new stories in this collection aren’t likely to add much luster to this side of his reputation. There’s certainly variety aplenty in the settings, which range from Lillian Stewart Carl’s English manor whose cats out-fop P.G. Wodehouse to Jean Rabe’s 19th-century riverside cave to Mat Coward’s bustling, anonymous mixed-race London neighborhood. And the eponymous heroes get to play every role imaginable. In addition to Edward D. Hoch’s obligatory sleuthing cat sidekick and Brendan DuBois’s feline avenger, there’s the cat as mystical totem in P.N. Elrod’s saga of rein-cat-nation, the cat as red herring in Christine Matthews and Robert J. Randisi’s where’s-that-cat riddle, and the cat as bone of contention in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s cat-inspired lawsuit. For all the changes they ring on the relationships between cats and crime, however, practically all these brand-new items are stingy with ingenuity, suspense, or mystery. But Gorman does get a chance to shine as cherry-picker with three atmospheric reprints that outclass the competition: John Helfers’s medieval Japanese “Paw-trait of a Murderer,” Gary A. Braunbeck’s hobo-justice “In the Lowlands,” and Gorman’s own “The Christmas Cat,” an Iowa idyll for ardent young investigator Sam McCain (Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, Feb. 2003, etc.).

Nothing like a cat-astrophe, then, but a collection hardly worthy of its lordly subject—or its editor’s long advocacy thereof. Fans may want to wait for an election year.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7862-5032-1

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Five Star/Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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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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