A quirky heist tale with too much emphasis on the theft, leaving its more vibrant features behind.

THE POLITICS OF POF AND POOF

INSPECTOR KEENE STORY

A host of eccentric criminals and an intrepid investigator get lost in the management of the U.S. Postal Service in this novel.

In a promisingly outlandish beginning, Quinlan (Collected Plays of Francis Quinlin, 2016) introduces readers to a man named The Professor, the wild resident of an asylum who channels a modern god named enoon, “deity, third rank, journalist, Cosmic News Bureau, New England Department.” It is actually enoon who narrates the story of POF and POOF, words soon revealed to be competing acronyms for an experiment in new amenities at the Postal Service. Almost five years after the implementation of POOF, $17.5 million of foreign currency disappears from a post office, throwing the postmaster, the U.S. president, numerous reporters, a group of bizarre conspirators, and even a curious old landlady on a collision course with one another and the corrupt, tangled bureaucracy that made the crime possible. At the center of all of this mess is Postal Inspector Emmett Keene, a solid investigator running only a few steps behind the culprits but always a little too late to stop their next crime or keep the chaos from evolving into a potential money-laundering scandal for the government. This is mostly thanks to a small, secret society that is manipulating the press to keep Keene off the track, unwittingly giving one of its own the perfect opportunity for a double-cross. While early chapters feature a blend of inspired lunacy with political critique reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut or Tom Robbins, Quinlan’s novel buries its most charming features with a more conventional procedural. Too much time with the two-dimensional Keene and an overwhelming number of point-of-view characters produce this effect, but nonetheless there are bright, quirky moments that cannot help but grab the spotlight. An incredibly hot-tempered postal worker, villains who develop their own court system for making decisions, and a man with multiple personalities are just some of the inventive elements that should dominate this story but that unfortunately spend too much time in the shadows.

A quirky heist tale with too much emphasis on the theft, leaving its more vibrant features behind.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5301-5909-3

Page Count: 428

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2018

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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