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The Inevitable Witness

From the Bobby Earl series , Vol. 1

This novel certainly doesn’t skimp on twisty plot turns, but retains an understated, authentic approach to the law.

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A Los Angeles lawyer defends a professional safecracker accused of murder in Rucker’s debut legal thriller.

Criminal defense attorney Bobby Earl gladly takes a case when the public defender is unavailable, especially after a judge assures him that he’ll be paid. Sydney Seabrooke is facing a murder charge, and evidence points to his presence at a Chinese restaurant where the body of LA cop Terry Horgan was found. Seabrooke professes his innocence, but the fact that he was at the scene of the crime in order to break into a safe doesn’t look good. But Earl is inclined to believe Seabrooke, who says he was pulling the job for bondsman Johnny Aradano in exchange for bail for an earlier, unrelated arrest. It also turns out that Horgan wasn’t an upstanding officer; although the cop didn’t own the restaurant, he did own the safe inside it, and Earl suspects that its contents—bulky stacks of cash—may have been the spoils of Horgan’s involvement with drug dealers. Before the trial begins, there’s a break-in at Earl’s office, and jailhouse snitch Jake “The Snake” Snyder claims that Seabrooke confessed to the murder. The attorney’s investigation into the seedy world of drugs provokes some dangerous people, but he still hopes to find a witness for the defense—or maybe even a killer. Rucker’s muted thriller steers clear of convention; there’s no glaring piece of evidence, for example, that guarantees that Earl will save his client. The story acknowledges its realism with humor, including nods to the TV series Law & Order (“most young women DA’s had chosen to emulate the female television prosecutors on ‘Law and Order,’ which meant exuding a toughness just short of announcing ‘mine are bigger than yours’ ”). Earl faces some other hurdles before and during the trial: he unintentionally irks television personality Thomas Glass (aka “The Thumb,” who has a knack for tipping scales of opinion one way or the other), and someone else threatens and takes a few shots at the lawyer. Overall, Earl’s a shrewd, worthy protagonist, surrounded by exceptional characters, including reliable investigator Manny Munoz and second-chair district attorney Samantha Price.

This novel certainly doesn’t skimp on twisty plot turns, but retains an understated, authentic approach to the law.

Pub Date: May 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9913274-7-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2016

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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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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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