A zigzagging mystery with an intuitive, competent protagonist.

SCABLANDS

A forensic psychologist in the mid-1990s consults on an investigation of the murder of her former intern in Averett’s (Cameron and the Girls, 2013, etc.) thriller.

It’s not the first time that Detective Olive Durant has hired Dr. Carmen Carillo as a consultant. The difference is that, in this case, Carmen knows the murder victim. Cops discovered Dr. Denny Musgrove’s mangled corpse inside the carcass of an eviscerated cow. Carmen had supervised him years before while he was a graduate student, and both doctors eventually had practices in Lamona, Washington. Denny’s last patient was Vincent Berenga, whom Carmen had referred to him and who’s now missing. Carmen knows that Vincent’s capable of such a grisly murder, but as the investigation continues, she’s surprised by a number of things that Denny had been up to, from making house calls for patients to possibly cheating on his wife. Complicating matters is Sturdevant Day, who owns the property where police found Denny’s body and who’s caring for his sickly neighbor, Evangeline (who happens to be Vincent’s mom). Carmen falls for the handsome Sturdevant, but she refuses to allow that to distract her from the case, which soon involves another murder with the same M.O. and a physical threat against Carmen herself. Averett gets his mystery off to a running start, establishing the various character relationships early. Along the way, there are myriad plot turns, not just regarding the investigation, but Carmen’s personal life as well. Readers may find some of the material that Carmen digs into, such as pornography, to be relatively tame, but they give the protagonist opportunities to view the case from a more clinical perspective, which adds credibility to the story. Her narration is rife with questions, effectively indicating the amateur sleuth’s tendency to constantly examine what she’s learned. A significant drawback, however, is the fact that Olive is limited to periodic appearances, as Carmen tends to work alone; as a result, two minor characters’ offensive slights against the detective have less impact, as only Carmen is there to hear them.

A zigzagging mystery with an intuitive, competent protagonist.

Pub Date: June 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9989359-0-4

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Wellborn Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2017

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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