THE POLITICS OF POF AND POOF

INSPECTOR KEENE STORY

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

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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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Awards & Accolades

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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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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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