An amusing yarn about a student whose love of literature takes him on a dangerous journey.

DON QUIXOTE GOES TO YALE

A Don Quixote fan at Yale University discovers a letter that speaks of hidden treasure in Spain in this thriller.

Michael Porter, a senior literature student at Yale, has become somewhat obsessed with Don Quixote. Michael pores through Cervantes’ novel in both Spanish and English and mopes around campus, often making conversation with his imaginary friend, Boomie. Michael’s girlfriend, Liz Mansfield, a wealthy student interested in finance, is hoping that after graduation Michael will join her and work at Merrill Lynch. As those jobs will be arranged by Liz’s dad, Michael is not overly excited about the prospect; nor is he looking forward to the couple’s trip to St. Thomas. Michael thinks that there are clues in Don Quixote to hidden riches and pretends to be a graduate student to look through some Cervantes documents at the library. He confides in Liz, but she tells him, “The reality is that we’re graduating in two months, and fiction has to take a backseat to life.” She insists, along with professor Colin Edwards, that fiction isn’t real and that the Man of La Mancha has not provided a treasure map. But in the depths of the Beinecke Library, Michael finds an unknown letter, stuck to the back of another, that purports to give the booty’s location. Lost in a literary fantasy, Michael skips the trip to St. Thomas and heads for Spain. Hot on his trail are Liz, the professor, and even Liz’s parents, and Michael soon realizes that he is not the only party in a desperate search for the loot. Halaban’s (The Vermeer Conspiracy, 2015, etc.) novel is a fun and lighthearted adventure that is definitely smart but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Nestled in the comfortable halls of the English Department, Michael’s literary knowledge and his fantasies have become one, and the real-life peril appears in Spain from such eclectic villains as an old forger, knife-wielding monks, and descendants of the Aztecs. The third act, however, goes on for far too long and becomes too crowded with characters. But overall, this is an enjoyable story that offers Gothic elements and archaic intrigue in a search for buried secrets that may or may not exist.

An amusing yarn about a student whose love of literature takes him on a dangerous journey.

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62901-487-6

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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